Institute scientists head to River Murray to study environmental impacts of flood

The Goyder Institute and Department for Environment and Water have launched a series of research projects to determine how South Australian River Murray environments are responding to the 2022-2023 high flow event. The projects will fill knowledge gaps to inform the future management of riverine, floodplain and wetland habitats.

“The flood has created some difficult challenges for our South Australian communities, but the flows represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to understand how such a flood event affects the river and surrounding environments,” said The Hon Susan Close MP, Deputy Premier and Minister for Climate, Environment and Water.

“While the high flows will create many positive environmental responses, blackwater events and potential pest species may pose a significant risk to endangered and threatened species,” said The Hon Susan Close MP.

Researchers will capture data while high flows continue to exit the Murray Mouth to better understand environmental responses to the flood. This is in addition to the work being undertaken by the South Australian government to further enhance river monitoring and flood forecasting.

“The Goyder Institute is delighted to work with DEW and our research partners to deliver this critical work to inform the state’s future management of river flows and environmental watering,” said Dr Alec Rolston, Interim Director of the Goyder Institute for Water Research.

“Understanding responses to events such as these high flows is important for improving our water management to ensure the environmental, economic, cultural and social values of our waters are maintained,” said Dr Rolston.

The research projects will focus on four key areas:

  • The water quality of the River Murray flow, and the influence of the freshwater flows on marine habitats and species outside of the Murray Mouth.
  • How salt moves and is flushed from the floodplain into groundwater during and after extensive flooding.
  • The risks associated with blackwater.
  • Responses in carp breeding and abundance.

“Future changes in our climate will likely increase the duration and intensity of extreme flood and drought events,” said Dr Rolston.

The findings will help shape future responses to flood events in South Australia, where latest climate trends project more intense heavy rainfall events to 2050 and beyond.

Outcomes of the research will improve understanding of environmental responses to a wider range of flow conditions, which in turn will inform future environmental water management, including improved forecasting of river conditions, monitoring and environmental watering priorities.

Contact Interim Director Dr Alec Rolston for more information about the River Murray flood environmental impacts projects. 

Tags: Climate Resilience Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Coorong Lower Lakes & Murray Mouth SA Department for Environment and Water (DEW) Flinders University Goyder Institute News Murray-Darling Basin South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) University of Adelaide Water for Agriculture Water for Cities and People Water for the Environment Wetlands

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