The weekly wash-up (September 29th)

The week/fortnight that was in river and water news – September 29th, 2013

No boost in the health of Victoria’s rivers   The government’s latest Index of Stream Condition report, which provides a snapshot of major rivers and streams across the state found only 23% of streams assessed in ”good” or ”excellent” condition. This was a marginal increase from 21% in 2004. The the government argues it could have been worse, given the state was in drought while data was being collected in the six years to 2010.

Water studies ordered on 47 coal projects  The Environment Minister has called for water studies on 47 large coal seam gas (CSG) and coal mining projects in NSW and Queensland  before federal approvals are granted. The previous Labor government created new federal powers to examine mining impact on water resources after pressure from former independent MP Tony Windsor, who argued that the states were approving mining projects without doing enough to protect water resources.

Swan River Trust axed   The Western Australian Environment Minister announced that the Swan Trust would be subsumed into the Department of Parks and Wildlife. Conservation Council WA director Piers Verstegen accused the government of turning its back on the Swan River’s problems, and “trying to make the problem go away” by removing its monitoring body.

Swan River, western Australia. Photo by: Nachoman-au

Swan River, Western Australia. Photo by: Nachoman-au

Water discovered in Mars surface layer  NASA has discovered water, and several other elements that would be important for sustaining life on the red planet. The study showing about 2% of the soil on the surface of Mars is made up of water adds to previous discoveries of mudstones, and the likelihood that they formed in lakes, and evidence that rivers once flowed across the planet.

Sounds of the bush record effects of environmental water   The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority is using the sounds of the bush to determine whether environmental watering is working. Recorders are placed at key locations where environmental water has been released in previous years. The animals present can be identified by both listening to the sounds and using music software to look at the sounds. Most of the project has been focused on bird and frog calls.

The barking marsh frog - 1 species that may benefit from environmental watering. Photo by: Gunther Schmida.

The barking marsh frog – 1 species that may benefit from environmental watering. Photo by: Gunther Schmida.

Murray-Darling water trade comes to a halt  Rules are about to be enacted that prevent any trade of water between river systems within Victoria and from the state to other parts of the Murray-Darling. This is because irrigators are allowed to keep some of last year’s water for the next year. Together with this year’s allocation and water set aside for the environment this means that dams are running out of room. Next irrigation season rules will be changed to limit the amount of water that irrigators can carry over from one season to the next to make more room in dams.

Holy water in Austria contaminated with faecal matter  Researches have found holy water at religious shrines and churches in Austria is often contaminated with faecal matter and bacteria. The healing effects ascribed to holy sources arose in the Middle Ages, when water quality in urban areas was generally so poor that people constantly contracted diarrhoea or other conditions.  Drinking from unpolluted springs in the forest  for several days would cause symptoms to disappear. Given the excellent quality of urban drinking water today, the situation is now completely reversed.

Water dries up in new cabinet  The new Coalition government’s ministry has glaring portfolio gaps, with water, science and energy and resources left uncovered. Instead, South Australian Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham – appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Environment Minister  has responsibility for water.

NSW Water sharing plans reviewed   A required review has recommended changes to all 31 water sharing plans across NSW. In NSW water sharing plans apply for a period of 10 years from their commencement, meaning there are now 31 plans across NSW due to expire in June 2014. The degree of change for plans in inland NSW will be limited  due to the ongoing concerns regarding any future move to water resource planning under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.