Iconic SA wetlands get a much-needed drink, showing Basin Plan in action

29 September 2020

Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, The Hon Keith Pitt MP
South Australian Minister for Environment and Water, The Hon David Speirs MP
Member for Barker, Tony Pasin MP
Member for Chaffey, Tim Whetstone MP


Spring has arrived on the wetlands of the South Australian Riverland, with new works operating for the first time to bring water onto the iconic Pike and Katarapko floodplains near Renmark. 

Federal Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt said it was an important day for the local community and shows the Basin Plan in action.  

“I was out at these floodplains earlier in the year and took a tour of the impressive network of regulators, fishways and levies which are designed to modernise the river and enable these significant sites to get a drink. 

“This wetland watering is happening because of the Basin Plan and the Commonwealth Government’s $155m investment. The project contributes to the SDL Adjustment Mechanism.”

Known as the South Australian Riverland Floodplains Integrated Infrastructure Program (SARFIIP), the works are enabling the delivery of landscape-scale watering events to support the health and resilience of key wetlands.

“The health of the floodplains, wildlife and vegetation has been in decline due to a build-up of salt, river regulation and overall lack of natural flows.  

“These new environmental regulators mean river operators can get water from the Murray River up and out onto the floodplains, create more natural wetting and drying cycles in the creeks and wetlands.”

South Australian Minister for Environment and Water David Speirs said these first operations would produce a low to medium level inundation so responses could be monitored and used to plan larger watering events later. 

“Before the regulators were installed water levels remained stable and couldn’t be managed across the floodplain resulting in some key vegetation not receiving regular water.”

“Over the years, the River Murray has been highly modified to keep water levels consistent and cycles of wetting and drying have been reduced,” Mr Speirs said. 

“This has had a significant impact on the environment and ecology of the Pike and Katarapko floodplains.

“Watering a large area of the floodplain will improve the health and condition of important tree communities such as the river red gums, black box, and lignum and support the populations of water birds, turtles and yabbies.

“Looking to the future, having regular, planned inundation events and then monitoring the outcomes will help restore floodplain health and improve the environment for the plants and animals that depend on these wetlands.”

Local Federal Member for Barker Tony Pasin said wetland watering was great news for the local community. 

“These floodplains are ecologically and culturally significant wetlands for the local community. By ensuring we are doing what we can to protect and improve the health of this area we are looking after an important community asset too, contributing to the local tourism offer and helping to ensure the Riverland remains a great place to live and work,” Mr Pasin said. 

Local State Member for Chaffey Tim Whetstone said the wetlands are an important part of the Riverland environment.

“The Pike and Katarapko floodplains near Renmark play a critical role in supporting native plants and wildlife. This project will ensure the long-term health of the wetland which will have significant benefits for the local community,” Mr Whetstone said.

The watering events at each site will run through until mid-December. 

For more information on the South Australian Riverland Floodplains Integrated Infrastructure Program visit: https://landscape.sa.gov.au/mr/water/river-murray/restoration-programs 

Background

To achieve the required ecological outcomes, raising of the weir pools at Lock 4 and Lock 5 is beneficial to ensure water flows through the inlets and onto the floodplain and wetlands.

Construction of the major works at Katarapko were completed in early June 2020, and final works at Pike finished up in late 2019.