Benefits of spring rain flow to wetlands

The rains of spring have certainly been welcomed by farmers, but local waterways are enjoying the experience too.

With more than 200 millimetres of rain having fallen in some areas of the Latrobe and Thomson catchments over the last 90 days, both of those rivers and the downstream wetland areas and Lake Wellington are seeing their best flows in more than eight years.

“It’s obviously been a long time coming but these are just great seasons for our rivers and wetlands,” said Environmental Water Officer with the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority, Dr. Adrian Clements.

When rivers get a good inflow, it revives the river, and gives native plants, fish and animals a real boost,” added Adrian.

Rainfall throughout the Latrobe and Thomson catchments as well as good falls in the Macalister and releases from Lake Glenmaggie have seen the areas around Sale in particular benefit from the flows.

“The Sale Wetlands are seeing a wonderful, reviving flood at the moment. Lake Wellington is in its best condition as far as salinity since 2012, which while still salty compared to fresh water is indicative of the difference good rainfall can make,” said Adrian.

“Similarly, Dowd Morass is nice and fresh. It’s the freshest it has been since we installed a water monitoring station in 2016, and probably the freshest it’s been since the 2011-2012 floods.

“One of the upshots of this is the possibility that the fresher condition of the area will allow a spoonbill/egret colony to re-establish. These birds like to eat the bugs and vegetation that live in fresh water, up until now it has been too salty for them, so we’re hopeful that we might see some in coming weeks, along with a few other rarely sighted birds,” added Adrian.

One of West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority’s roles is to manage water for the environment, these are flows introduced to a waterway from a storage, to boost a rivers health. These environmental flows are particularly important during dry times.

However, Adrian says that these natural events caused by high rainfall provide many more benefits than releasing water for the environment.

“These natural, over land flows for areas like Dowd Morass, flush the salt out much more effectively than water for the environment. Just the volume and spread of the water being so large, brings many more benefits.

“Our water releases are really just keeping the waterways and wetlands going until these natural events occur.”

All the areas receiving this spring flush are publicly accessible and provide a great venue for both bird watching and frog spotting.

“We’d certainly encourage people to visit these areas like the Sale Wetlands or Dowds Morass which are truly wonderful areas. Plan your visit, grab your binoculars, keep an eye out for snakes of course but also download things like the frog ID app to help map the natural life that is right in our backyard,” concluded Adrian.