The River Murray is a major resource that provides water for industry, agriculture and domestic use. The River also supports environments that are culturally, socially and ecologically important. It is a managed river where constant negotiation and innovation is required to meet the needs of industry and environment. This management is complicated by the impact of the highly saline regional groundwater, which discharges to the River and floodplains.
Surface water has been managed to provide additional flows that support the floodplains and along the River. Historically, management of groundwater has focused on reducing saline groundwater inflow to the river. The South Australian Riverland Floodplains Integrated Infrastructure Program (SARFIIP) aims to take the next step and manage groundwater to support the environment. SARFIIP is a $155 million program funded through the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) which aims to improve the watering and management of key River Murray floodplains in South Australia’s Riverland.
This challenging project needs to not only understand how groundwater and ecology are linked, but also how useful information could be provided to managers and decision makers. A collaborative approach has been taken involving ecologists, hydrogeologists, groundwater modellers, hydrologists, GIS analysts and managers involved in the broader program. A methodology has been designed where separate components of the floodplain system, groundwater, surface water and ecology, are analysed individually to extract information important to the ecology of the floodplain. These separate parts are then merged in such a way that the combined influence is able to be examined.
By bringing together the separate components that impact ecological response, the relationships between them have become better understood. This improved understanding has led to the development of a practical methodology capable of assessing proposed management actions for their potential to have beneficial or harmful consequences for floodplain ecology.