Water and Wetlands
What is the current condition of the region’s water and wetlands? What are our current tools for measuring conditions and trends?
From the Minister’s Report 2012-13 For Queensland’s Water Resource Plans (QDNRM 2013b) indications are that the existing Water Resource Plans are compliant with CAP requirements and are maintaining sustainable management and efficient use of water resources. For the Condamine and Balonne, the Moonie and the Border Rivers Plan areas it was indicated that:
“The outcomes and strategies in the (Water Resource Plan) were designed to promote sustainable management and efficient use of water resources. In the 2012-13 reporting year, there were no new developments that would impact on the ability of the plan to continue this function.”
The GAB Plan review in the Minister’s Report indicates that the GAB Plan is successfully dealing with:
“…management issues concerning the GAB. This includes the sustainability of the water resources, the environmental, social and cultural significance of the water, and the impacts of GAB water on the land overlying the basin.”
However, despite the Queensland interests with regard to water allocation being met, broader interests have indicated the need for a larger portion of surface waters and alluvial groundwater to be left for environmental use.
From the Murray Darling-Basin Authority:
“Over time, water has been over-allocated to some farms and communities and not enough has been set aside for the environment” (MDBA 2014).
In implementing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority is recovering water for the environment through direct purchases and through Water Use Efficiency projects where water savings are shared between licence holders and the environment.
Community participation in the development and implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is an evolving process with ongoing challenges. Challenges include wider agreement on the balance between social, economic and environmental needs and how non-flow related measures could be used to complement or negate the need for further buybacks. (Again, it should be noted, that while the work of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority impacts on the on-ground works of QMDC, they two organisations are very separate in charter and governance.)
In the Aquatic Conservation Assessment (ACA) for catchments in the Queensland Murray-Darling Basin Authority and NSW Border Rivers, a number of criteria were uses to assess the conservation value of rivers and other wetlands in the Maranoa-Balonne and Lower Condamine catchments. The information collated for the ACA has been made available and the ratings for “aquatic naturalness”, “catchment naturalness” and “diversity and richness (criteria 1, 2 and 3 respectively) are presented at www.qmdc.org.au/qmdc/wetlands_aca.html.
Aquatic naturalness was rated from available data for:
- exotic flora/fauna,
- aquatic communities/assemblages,
- habitat features modification,
- hydrological modification, and
- water quality(Fielder et al. 2011a).
Catchment naturalness was rated from available data for:
- exotic flora/fauna,
- riparian disturbance,
- catchment disturbance, and
- flow modification.
Diversity and richness was rated from available data for:
- habitat, and
From the plot of the results (Figure 10) it can be seen that in the northern parts of the region a large proportion of riverine and non-riverine wetlands are rated high for naturalness with most other rated as very high of medium. In the southern parts of the region riverine and non-riverine wetlands near the trunk steams are mostly medium to high scoring for naturalness while those further from the trunk streams are mostly very high. The naturalness of the catchments across the whole region was mostly rated high to very high.
Despite the high level of naturalness of the aquatic ecosystems and the catchments, scores for diversity and richness were mostly low to medium. This is thought to reflect a naturally low level of diversity as eluded to by McGregor et. al. (2013).
“Key ecological implications of the water quality conditions in the QMDB include: (i) low diversity of aquatic macroinvertebrates due to fine substrates and low light penetration…” (McGregor et. al. 2013)
Ecosystem health rating (SR-EH by valley and by zone (MDBA 2013)