The complex job of managing water

ImageThe increasing likelihood that Australia will soon return to drought conditions as a result of an ever strengthening El Nino pattern makes me wonder how the River Murray will be impacted over coming years. I remember clearly the depressing appearance of Goolwa channel and Murray Mouth at the height of the “Millennium drought” (1995 to early 2009), the worst recorded since European settlement. Exposed sand bars, brittle riparian vegetation and a distinct lack of vibrancy in the surrounding landscape contrasted starkly with my childhood memories of what seemed back then to be an aquatic paradise.

Just as clearly I remember how the river and landscape responded when the Queensland floods of February 2009 sent the first of 3.25 million megalitres of freshwater through northern catchments and the Simpson Desert into Lake Eyre. In stark contrast to the previous decades, the iconic lake filled completely for 3 consecutive years.  Our wettest ever spring on record in 2010 combined to push life back into the lower reaches of the River Murray and the Goolwa Lakes responded with a fresh flush of vibrant green growth from wetlands after receiving their first drink of fresh upstream water in years. Dam levels rose, waterways and levies flooded, restrictions were ease and many forgot about the pain of prolonged drought experienced such a short time ago.

During the drought, a response coined the “10 point national plan for water security” was created by the Howard government from which the Murray Darling Basin Plan was born. The objective of the plan was to deliver more water for environmental flows with then Murray Darling system while minimizing impacts on other user groups. Considering an estimated 39% of national income derived from agricultural production (amounting to approximately $15 billion dollars of produce) is generated by the basin community, the need to create a balance is a necessity.

In a recent presentation at the Murray-Darling Association Conference in Goolwa on Wednesday the 9th October 2013 (, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment, South Australian Simon Birmingham discussed the government’s plans for managing water resources in the River Murray over coming years. In what would have to be considered a positive, the Liberal government plans to allocate $12 billion dollars with a priority to target water recovery for environmental flows by improving irrigation and water distribution infrastructure. The devil as always exists in the details

“Fixing inefficient infrastructure is the best way to return water to the environment whilst helping irrigation community’s position themselves for a sustainable future” he stated. True perhaps, but it depends what you mean when you refer to infrastructure. If you rely solely on technological improvements to solve your issues you aren’t playing with a full deck of cards. There are all sorts of inefficiencies in our management of the water cycle which could be improved and there are many actions we can take as individuals.

The largest water storage potential we have is our soils and sub-surface aquifers. When water hits bare soil all sorts of problems can occur. Under these conditions, increased water run-off carrying with it top soil and excessive nutrients can have a major impact on water quality. Water infiltrating into aquifers becomes restricted as soil surfaces harden and as a result shed water more easily, not to mention the fact that bare soils contain little in the way of habitat diversity or the ability to reduce extreme temperatures as vegetated landscapes do. Salt tables not contained by vegetation start to rise towards the surface and un-vegetated river banks allow for little in the way of a buffer to our much loved waterways.

Perhaps one of the best things you can do to help manage water and the health of waterways such as the mighty River Murray is to become more aware of how water is cycled in your own backyard…we are all part of the solution.

You can learn more and have a greater impact on water management in the River Murray via these agencies and by getting in contact with the relevant politicians –

You can also find out more about how you can assist better manage your environment and soil contact your local NRM board, Local Action Planning group or Landcare association for great practical advice.

The mighty Murray cod

Murray codDid you know the Murray Cod (Maccullochella peelii) is the largest, longest lived and arguably the most beautiful of Australia’s freshwater fish?  In fact, it’s one of the largest freshwater fish in the world! At its greatest, this charismatic river dweller can reach sizes of up to a whopping 183 cm in length and 113 Kg although some have claimed to have seen greater. Legend has it that there was once a giant specimen estimated at 215 cm and approximately 225Kg that was knocked out by the rudder of a paddle steamer in the 70’s … so they say.

In addition to its size, the adaptability of this species is most impressive. It is able to inhabit almost any freshwater habitat from small, clear rocky upland streams at 1000 m altitude to large, silty, slow flowing rivers in the alluvial plains of the Murray–Darling Basin. Regardless of whether they originate from the  eastern or southern Australian state or which footy team they barrack for, the Murray cod show a preference for deep holes with cover from large rock, fallen trees, clay banks and over hanging vegetation either laying low or waiting for their next meal.

Gone are the days prior to European settlement when this species once inhabited almost the entire length of the Murray Darling Basin. Fishing, de-snagging, river regulation (dams, weirs and controlled flows) and the loss of breeding holes due to siltation have all contributed to a massive decline in numbers. So much so, that the species is now protected under federal law.

The fact that Murray cod are highly valued as a table and fighting fish haven’t helped its cause. Known to eat anything from yabbies’ and spiny freshwater crayfish to water fowl, small mammals and tortoises they have long been a favorite target of professional and recreational fishers alike. So much so that in 1883, 147 000 Kg of Murray cod were sent to Melbourne market from one town (Moana) alone. A peak in commercial catch in 1918 was reported by the Register News who stated 1 045 010 Kg were received at Melbourne market for sale that year and had declined ever since. There is little doubt that recreational fishing has also greatly impacted this species.

Despite living for up to 100 years, Murray cod become sexually mature and able to reproduce between 4-6 years of age, 50-65cm length and about 2-3 Kg in weight. Their transition from a juvenile to a frisky teenager seems more related to age than to size.  There is therefore some concern that the minimum legal size of capture (60cm) doesn’t adequately satisfy the objectives of allowing fish to spawn at least once prior to capture, particularly as there is a sharp drop off in numbers once they reach this size. This is important as despite their size they are not exceptionally fertile when compared to other breeds. It is the larger females of approximately 15-25 Kg that produce larger larvae and have the experience that make them the best and most important reproducers.

Once thought to be largely immobile it is now recognized that they can travel up to 150 km up or down stream. Large spawning migrations have been noted and it is nice to know they reproduce romantically by pairing up courting until the deed is done. A mat of eggs are attached to a stable surface and the male, being the good sport he is, watches guard over the potential offspring until they hatch and drift away up to a week later.

Aboriginal tribes have had a close relationship with this species and for some the Murray cod was iconic and featured heavily in their mythology. Some thought the River Murray itself was created by a gigantic Murray cod which created the wide bends and river channels from a narrow stream when trying to escape from a renowned dreamtime hunter of the times. Indeed, mythology regarding this species is not restricted to indigenous Australians. There are also many a stories of the one that got away. A commonly repeated tale is of a huge fish which consumed increasingly large baits set by the keen fisherman/farmer without being caught. Eventually, in a last ditch effort a large bait was attached to a chain and the back of a tractor….apparently this was the cause of the mechanical wreckage laid to rest by the banks of the river….so they say.

Boating on the River Murray

There is nothing more peaceful than a few days floating down the River.

There is nothing more peaceful than a few days floating down the River.

Every Easter thousands of South Australian families flock to the River Murray to enjoy one of our states greatest natural assets, however its times like these that we risk spoiling what we love. With increased human traffic comes increased risk to personal safety and the environment but by using a few simple guidelines river users can maximise their fun in a safe and respectful way. A new brochure and quick reference sticker for boaters developed by MurrayCare , the SA Murray Darling Basin NRM board, assisted by DPTI, will be available for free from local Information Centres, river town general stores and caravan parks this Easter weekend showing boating and other holiday makers how to make the best of their holidays while preserving the place they love.

Anyone seeing or hearing recreational activities which are contrary to boating regulations, a disturbance to recreational enjoyment or damage to the environment should ring Murray Watch who will pass the information to the appropriate authority for action -Tel 85310710. If boats are involved try and report their registration number.


You can download the new brochure here: Boating on the River Murray_SCREEN RES

If you would like extra copies of the printed brochure for your club or business please use contact form below:

Immerse yourself in the Coorong

Coorong Experience for Educators

25-26-27 April 2014

Small group size (max 15) – Limited places remain! Book today!

2 nights + 2 full days

Cost: $390 (unsalaried or student teacher concession $200).


First 2 registered with payment before Friday 28th March will be eligible for 2 for 1 offer (Teachers $195 each and student teachers/unsalaried $100 each).

Presented by Ngarrindjeri lands and Progress Association and River Murray Urban Users Committee MurrayCare™ and subsidised by the SA MDB Natural Resources Management Board.

MurrayCare will be running its popular Coorong experience field tour on Friday 25th, Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th April. The tour is open to educators, student teachers and other educators interested in increasing their awareness and understanding of Aboriginal culture and seeing first hand the environmental issues effecting the Coorong and Lower lakes.

Participants will be introduced to the rich cultural heritage of the region by aboriginal guides as they are immersed in the Coorong during a boat tour/walk to the main beach, bush tucker walk and tour of Camp Coorong Museum. Participants will gain an understanding from local experts of the issues facing the area due to the over extraction of water and climate change and the effect this is having on this fragile ecosystem and those living and working around the Lower Lakes and Coorong.

To register and for more information (draft program available on request) on the Coorong Experience email or phone 0466 278 187Image

Native Plant Guide App

Native Plant Guide App

The guide delivers specific information about Australia’s wonderful native flora to a global audience via a multitude of delivery platforms and its now had a general content update, been upgraded to work on Apple’s latest operating system iOS7 and in addition now offers the capacity to enlarge images. Suitable for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, The Native Plant Guide App has already changed the way many in the industry communicate information.

Australian Fostering Sustainable Behaviour Workshops

Community–based Social Marketing 2-day Workshop

About the Workshops
The cornerstone of sustainability is behaviour change. Sustainability requires that Australians engage in diverse actions, such as reducing waste, increasing water and energy efficiency, altering transportation habits, and protecting native species. To date, most programs to encourage such activities have relied upon disseminating information. Research demonstrates, however, that simply providing information has little or no effect on what people or businesses do. But if not ads, brochures or booklets, then what? Over the last decade a new approach—community–based social marketing—has emerged as an effective alternative for delivering programs to foster sustainable behaviour.
About the Speaker
In February and March of 2014, Dr Doug McKenzie-Mohr – the founder of community-based social marketing – will be delivering a series of introductory and advanced community-based social marketing workshops in Australia. Recommended by Time magazine, his book “Fostering Sustainable Behaviour” has become requisite reading for those who deliver environmental programs. The approaches that Dr McKenzie-Mohr advocates in these workshops are now being utilized throughout Australia. For example, Queensland’s “Home WaterWise Service” and “ClimateSmart Home Service,” which reached over 500,000 households across the state, made extensive use of community-based social marketing.
Who should Attend
These workshops will be of interest to those working to promote waste reduction, water and energy efficiency, conservation, modal transportation changes, catchment protection, and other sustainable behaviour changes. Those who work to promote behavioural changes that promote health, such as active lifestyles, will also benefit from attending. Descriptions of both workshops are provided below.
Workshop Reviews
Dr McKenzie-Mohr has delivered community-based social marketing workshops internationally for over 60,000 environmental program managers. Below is a small sample of recent anonymous evaluations:
-Fantastic, simply invaluable.
-This is hands-down the most valuable workshop/training I’ve ever attended.
-Speaker was wonderful.
-The best workshop/conference I have ever experienced.
-Outstanding presentation style. Expertise is obvious.
-Superb presentation skills.
-By far, the best workshop I have attended – on any topic!
Introduction: The two-day introductory workshop provides a comprehensive introduction to community-based social marketing and how it is being applied throughout the world to foster sustainable behaviours. Those who attend the workshop will learn the five steps of community-based social marketing (selecting behaviours, identifying barriers, developing strategies, conducting pilots, and broad scale implementation) and be exposed to numerous case studies illustrating its use. Each participant will receive a copy of the new edition Dr McKenzie-Mohr’s book, “Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing.” The introductory workshop is a mandatory prerequisite for the advanced workshop. This workshop is being offered in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Townsville.
Advanced: This completely new two-day advanced workshop provides an in-depth exploration of how community-based social marketing can be used to foster sustainable behaviour. This workshop introduces new research on selecting behaviours, identifying barriers and benefits (including market segmentation, survey sampling and survey creation), applying behaviour change tools (including some exciting new developments regarding the use of commitments, norms, prompts, goal setting, and social diffusion), and piloting programs. The workshop also addresses the effective use of social media and websites in the fostering of sustainable behaviour. Further, participants will also be coached in making community-based social marketing presentations to their agency or community and will receive PowerPoint and Keynote presentations for this purpose. Finally, each participant will receive a copy of the new edition of “Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing.” To ensure a high level of learning and exchange of ideas, this workshop is restricted to individuals who have previously attended Dr. McKenzie-Mohr’s introductory workshop. If you have not yet attended an introductory workshop, you can attend the introductory workshop that precedes the advanced workshop in either Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne or Perth and then attend the advanced workshop that directly follows it. Reduced rates are available for attending both workshops.
Registration and Further Information
For further information or to register, visit:
Please note that these workshops often fill to capacity. Please register early to avoid disappointment. If you are not interested in attending yourself, please consider forwarding this announcement to colleagues who may be interested.

Trees For Life SA need volunteers

Trees For Life SA need volunteers

Trees For Life is urgently looking for 200 more volunteers in South Australia to grow native seedlings this summer.

Each year about 1000 volunteers raise hundreds of thousands of seedlings in a bid to help continue to revegetate SA and we hope to reach this important target with the community’s help.

Through the award-winning Tree Scheme, volunteers are asked to grow and care for the seedlings for landholders and revegetation projects in South Australia.

The Tree Scheme operates by annual seedling orders being taken for landholders, councils, government projects and private enterprise, with Trees For Life then linking up orders with volunteer growers.

Trees For Life provides all the propagation materials – seed varieties, tubes, boxes, soil and mulch – free to volunteers, along with easy-to-follow instructions. The materials can be collected at a local distribution depot in your region in mid-November.

Once sown and raised, seedlings are handed over for planting about six months later.

The seedlings provide food and habitat for our native wildlife, help counteract some of South Australia’s Greenhouse gas emissions and help rehabilitate land that has been degraded.

Those interested in volunteering don’t need to have a green thumb – it’s a perfect way for people to do something positive to help our environment, it’s free and it’s a feel-good experience!

If you can help, please phone the office on (08) 8406 0500 or log onto the Trees For Life website.

2014 Calendar competition

Entries into the NRM Education Calendar Image Competition are now open!

Students can submit text, photos, drawings or paintings that showcase the NRM Education programs and acitivities such as Waterwatch, Weed Warriors, Junior Youth Forums and River Murray Youth Council.

Winning entries will see their images or text printed in the 2014 NRM Education Calendar for all to see.

Entries close Friday 8th November. For more information or a copy of the entry form, contact

SA State Landcare Conference (6-7 November 2013)

SA State Landcare Conference (6-7 November 2013)

The SA State Landcare Conference is being held 6-7 November 2013 at the Observatory in Adelaide – a mere three and half weeks away!

The Landcare Association of SA will host the 2013 State Landcare Conference in Adelaide during November 2013, with an emphasis on Community Landcare. This conference has been funded by the Australian Government through the Community Landcare Grants.
The Conference is scheduled to coincide with the 2013 State Landcare and Premiers NRM Awards to give Awards finalists an opportunity to tell their story to their peers.

Frog Season!

September kicks off the Frog monitoring season, Common froglets and Brown tree frogs have already started calling with other species soon to join in the nightly chorus.

Have you heard or seen frogs in your area and wondered what species they are? Did you know the Lower Lakes is also home to the endangered Southern Bell Frog? Would you like to contribute to a regional frog monitoring program? Natural Resources SA Murray Darling Basin and the Goolwa to Wellington Local Action Planning Association need your help!

What is involved?

Each frog species has its own distinctive mating call. We need volunteers to record these calls after dark during the months of September, October, November and December, one recording for each month. Frog monitoring equipment is available for loan and is simple and easy to use, anyone can do it!

All it takes is a five minute recording of the frogs calling during the evening and completing a data sheet – you don’t need to be an expert at identifying frog calls to participate. A frog identification booklet and local frog call CD is available in the loan kit, along with detailed instructions on using the equipment and frog monitoring. Please phone ahead to ensure a loan kits is available.  NRM Education has a frog kit that can be borrowed, other Frog monitoring loan kits can be obtained from;

 Goolwa Visitor Information Centre, Cadell Street, Goolwa Ph: 1300 466 592

 Lakes Hub Milang, Daranda Terrace, Milang Ph: 8537 0808

 Lakes Hub Meningie, Main Road, Meningie Ph: 8575 1830

 Strathalbyn Natural Resource Centre, 6 Catherine Street, Strathalbyn Ph: 8536 5613

For more information or assistance with Frog monitoring contact;

Regina Durbridge Ph: 0427 364 551 or email

Mel Tucker Ph: 0477 348 382 or email

Southern Bell Frog – Photo Regina Durbridge