ENVIRONMENT

Innovation may save Wilson inlet

WILSON inlet is a playground, nature haven, source of income and a visual feast for Denmark residents and visitors – including the avian variety.

The inlet lies in two local government areas – the Shire of Denmark and the City of Albany – with part of its catchment also within the Shire of Plantagenet.

The Wilson Inlet Catchment Committee (WICC) identifies and implements ways to improve water quality within the catchment.
WICC executive officer Shaun Ossinger manages the organisation’s state and federally-funded projects to reduce nutrient export into waterways which feed the inlet. “According to our modelling about 80% of nutrients come from agriculture,” Shaun said.

The work done by WICC was on show at the WA College of Agriculture Denmark open day on August 31.

Fully equipped participants planting near Wilson inlet. PHOTO: DONNA CARMAN

Dave Rogers from the Department Primary Industries and Regional Development gave a presentation about collaborative projects with WICC.

The department and WICC worked with farmers throughout the catchment to identify sources of highest phosphorus pollution, which were primarily in the lower catchment.

Following soil testing farmers were advised how much fertiliser to use, based on what nutrients were already in the soil, and the information was logged on a database.

In some cases only one paddock on a whole farm might need superphosphate, with the money saved being available to use more effectively elsewhere on the property.

One farmer saved $28,500 out of his annual whole-farm superphosphate bill of $33,000.

Planting riparian vegetation as a nutrient filter is another regular WICC activity, with community field days held each year.

WICC is also working with Murdoch University and other stakeholders on a project proposal entitled ‘Waste to Profit’, with the first phase planned to look at types of algae best suited to processing effluent.

Shaun Ossinger and Joann Green of WICC testing water samples at the ag college open day. PHOTO: DONNA CARMAN

The Denmark ag college, with a dairy and abattoir, was an ideal research site, Shaun said.

In the future, landholders and others may be able to sell the byproducts of this treatment process – including processed human effluent – as fertilisers and stockfeeds. Clean water would also be a useful byproduct.

As a result of its work with landholders to identify and control phosphorus export WICC is a finalist in the biennial WA Landcare Awards.

Winners will be announced at next month’s Natural Resource Management and Coastal Conference.

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