Murrumbidgee Ecological Monitoring Program

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ACTEW Water introduced a water security program which involved building additional infrastructure to improve the future water supply of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Several components of this initiative involve water transfer via river abstraction, which requires a robust monitoring program that would detect any potential impacts that may eventuate from changes in flow.

The monitoring program design incorporated the conditions of approval from the EPA. The Murrumbidgee Ecological Monitoring Program (MEMP) adopts an adaptive management approach as well as a comprehensive field program which includes monitoring water quality, riparian vegetation, macroinvertebrate communities, fish and geomorphology surveys.

Description

The Murrumbidgee River originates in the Snowy Mountains, NSW, and has an upstream catchment area of approximately 5,100 km2 to the ACT border, where the water abstractions are to occur. The monitoring program is in the Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment and all monitoring sites are located between two major reservoirs - Tantangara to the south and Burrinjuck to the North.

Murrumbidgee River water is to be drawn from Angle Crossing and pumped into Burra Creek, some 12 km to the east which flows into the Googong Reservoir. Burra Creek is naturally an intermittent Creek, which usually has very low base flows.

Twenty three monitoring sites are visited biannually in the Murrumbidgee River and an additional six sites are visited in the Burra Creek Catchment to the east. The impact of the Inter Basin Transfer on the water quality, flora and fauna and natural erosion rates to the receiving waters are currently being monitored by GHD, while at the same time the impacts of water abstractions at Angle Crossing (on the Murrumbidgee River) are being investigated.

Outcomes

This project has provided a comprehensive understanding of the state of river health in the Upper Murrumbidgee River, which has important social, economic and ecological value to the region. GHD’s approach used the AUSRIVAS protocols, which has been modified to return finer detail in the resolution of macroinvertebrate species. This method provides a detailed species inventory of the Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment; and a comprehensive understanding of the existing ecological condition of the river under various hydrological environments. The MEMP has also provided key stakeholders and community groups with confidence in their local utilities that monitoring for environmental change has been pro-active in light of the significant changes to local infrastructure.

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