Healthy waterways are critically important to sustaining a healthy environment. South Coast rivers, estuaries, wetlands and water resources are recognised as precious assets and it is important that they are maintained, protected and restored.
The region includes 107 rivers and tributaries, 33 estuaries and inlets and over 300 conservation category wetlands. They are extremely significant features of the region and are important to ecological, social and economic values for the community, supporting recreation, tourism, fishing and other regional industries. They provide essential ecological services and are used extensively by agriculture and provide critical water supplies, including drinking water for the community.
South Coast NRM is working to overcome threats to the health and condition of the waterways in the region which include land clearing, increased salinity, erosion, sedimentation and nutrient enrichment. Loss of riparian (riverbank) vegetation, pollution from various land uses, over extraction and physical alteration of systems and floodplains are also impacting water quality and availability. Climate change modelling indicates there could be increased sediment movement and erratic river flows as well as heightened upstream salt wedges, de-oxygenation events, algal blooms and fish deaths and reductions in natural openings to the ocean.
South Coast NRM has a two-pronged approach to water and wetland management across the region to secure safe, clean and reliable water resources for current and future generations:
- improving farm productivity, reducing off site impacts and creating long term legacy through innovation in surface water management in the south west and south coast of WA
- Supporting our international responsibilities to protecting wetlands of international importance through rehabilitation, restoration and reducing threats to the ecological character of the Lake Warden and Lake Gore RAMSAR listed wetlands.
The first international conservation agreement to halt the worldwide loss of wetlands, the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance was signed, in Ramsar, Iran in 1971. Australia is a signatory to this agreement and has an international responsibility to maintain and improve the ecological character of Ramsar sites in Australia.
In the South Coast region we have three wetlands listed under the Ramsar Convention – Lake Warden and Lake Gore near Esperance and Lake Muir – due to their high significance as a major refuge for migrant and resident water birds of the region during the dry season.
Wetlands are valuable for the environment, food production, our culture and recreation. A healthy wetland has a rich natural diversity of plants and animals. and provide connections so that plants and animals can spread from place to place and maintain their populations. Wetland systems also remove sediment and nutrients and protect coastlines from storm surges and floods.
Wetlands also support Australia’s primary industries. Saltmarshes, mangroves and seagrass wetlands are the nurseries for fish and seafood and some wetlands provide water for irrigation and farm animals.
The greatest threat facing the Lake Warden and Lake Gore Ramsar wetland areas is altered hydrology due to landscape scale changes to vegetation and erosion and sedimentation in tributaries (especially Lake Gore).
At South Coast NRM, we monitor, measure and evaluate the ongoing condition of these important areas and are working with landholders to reduce erosion and establish perennial vegetation to stabilise catchment water use.
We also secure areas of safe habitat for migratory and resident birds and other wildlife. Lake Gore covers over 4000 ha and almost one third of the world population of Hooded Plover occurs regularly here. Lake Warden covers 2000 ha and over 30,000 birds have been recorded using the lake system. The site is also important for thousands of Australian Shelduck and Banded Stilts. The Ramsar site supports threatened species such as the Fairy Tern and Freckled Duck.
A Living Stream Management Plan presents opportunities for rehabilitation of fragmented urban waterways with respect to their ecological health and community social benefits.
The aim is to return continuity of riparian form and function to an urbanised catchment stream. The City of Albany’s vision for the next ten years is to be clean, green and sustainable. Within the objective to protect and enhance our natural environment, the City has endorsed actions that protect and enhance the health of our waterways including providing habitat for local flora and fauna.
This project is working closely with the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation as a component of their Regional Estuaries Initiative and complements work done by the Oyster Harbour Catchment Group and the Friends of Yakamia Creek.
Fish Friendly Farms
South Coast NRM worked with landholders to set up two demonstration sites as part of the delivery of the Fish Friendly Farms Programme in the South Coast NRM Region. The demonstration sites showcased the implementation of environmental restoration and protection works to help restore ecosystem function for the benefit of native fish and the aquatic environment.
Landholders, project partners and the community were engaged through project workshops, field days and communication activities to improve landholder and stakeholder knowledge of the native fish, local waterways and NRM issues and activities to protect and improve the aquatic environment.