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New funds flow to UC river project

Claudia Doman

14 November 2014: A University of Canberra team of freshwater researchers has received $2.75 million in federal funding to monitor the effects of water delivery in a critical area within the Murray-Darling Basin.

The team led by Dr Fiona Dyer and Mr Ben Broadhurst from the University's Institute for Applied Ecology will use the five-year funding to examine fish and vegetation responses to the release of environmental water into the lower Lachlan River system, in south-west  New South Wales.

UC river project UC researcher Fiona Dyer and her team will measure impact of environmental water on native species and water quality in the lower Lachlan River system. Photo: Michelle McAulay.

Environmental water is the water needed in a river, wetland or estuary to maintain healthy, natural ecosystems.

"We are excited to have the opportunity to lead a long-term project investigating ecological responses to Commonwealth environmental water," Dr Dyer said.

"Receiving funding of such longevity is rare, but it will provide a very real opportunity to build a far deeper understanding of ecological responses to environmental water than has been possible through short term funding programs."

Dr Dyer added that the lower Lachlan River system is an often forgotten part of the Murray-Darling Basin river network.

"The channel and wetland network in this area includes numerous nationally and regionally significant wetlands such as the Great Cumbung Swamp, Lachlan Swamp and Booligal Wetlands, which are particularly valuable as waterbird and migratory bird habitats," she said.

Dr Dyer explained that improving or maintaining the health of the Murray-Darling is not solved by just adding more water.

"We will be monitoring what happens to native species and the quality of the water in this area when environmental water is released into the catchment. What we learn from this project will help us to deliver water for the environment more effectively, with better outcomes for all water users."

This funding is part of a $30m five-year monitoring plan for the Murray-Darling Basin announced by the Commonwealth Government this week.