By Donna Carman
IT’S official – Wilson inlet is healthy.
The news that the inlet’s water quality is good was welcomed by the hundred or more locals who attended the Wilson Inlet Estuary Forum on Tuesday October 15 at the Riverside Club.
The forum was presented by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER), Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and the Wilson Inlet Catchment Committee (WICC).
The Water Corporation declined an invitation to participate.
About 60% of the inlet catchment is cleared land.
The audience heard that water sampling along rivers and around the inlet allowed scientists to pinpoint the most likely pollution sources.
Finding sources of pollution mattered even when inlet water was in good condition because other factors, including reduced rainfall, influenced runoff and streamflow.
The 40 percent of uncleared catchment is largely State-owned reserves.
The impacts of current burning regimes on runoff and streamflow were acknowledged as having a negative effect.
DWER and DPIRD are investing resources into programs to reduce risks to the inlet, through the Regional Estuaries Initiative and the uPtake program.
WICC conducts intensive nutrient soil tests on participating farms.
As a result, instead of treating a whole farm with a standard amount of phosphorus each year, some farmers have found that paddocks do not need a top-up for years.
Other, more useful prescriptions include tweaking soil pH instead of using super, and fencing cattle out of waterways and riparian revegetation.
A farmer who grew up alongside the Denmark river shared his observation that between 1970 and 1990 his paddocks flooded two to three times a year, compared with perhaps once a year now.
He suggested that data needed to be looked at differently, with the three riverflow data points in the catchment that have been there for a century being analysed separately.
What many of those present wanted to know was what went on with the bar opening last year, and why it was decided not to open it this year.
Apparently, the dual opening was predictably destined for a quick close with the dispersed channel energy allowing the sea to silt things up sooner.
The September cutoff date for an opening is set in the current protocol, based on factors that impact the estuary’s health.
The answer was that to a large extent water quality ultimately determined every other use of the inlet.
The promised comprehensive review of the opening protocol, to take into account and evaluate all user needs, was not discussed in detail.
Scientific analyses of a range of water data were clearly presented, and it seems that we can’t expect a return to annual openings, or a shift to non-openings.
MC Louise Duxbury made a closing statement on the large turnout being a testament to our gratitude that there is funding for our inlet.
Many stayed on after the formal presentations, to continue conversations with department staff and WICC members – and all made more enjoyable by the grazing table provided by Wheels & Peg Catering and the club’s bar facilities.
Further information can be found on the WICC and DWER websites.