The weekly wash-up (June 7th)

River and water news – June 7th, 2014

I’ve finally shaken off my post-budget blues to write the next post. No good news for our freshwater systems in the budget, but cool science continues to be done!

Murray-Darling infrastructure boost – will it offset reduced water buybacks?  The Federal Government has announced it will cut its water buyback target for the Murray-Darling Basin. The buyback will be cut from 1,500 gigalitres to 1,300, but $2.3 billion will be spent on infrastructure projects to boost efficiency. While regional councils and irrigators say this is good news for river communities, conservationists say the Government is opting for a less-efficient way to return the river system to health.

Recommendation to ban fracking in Sydney catchments  The state’s top scientist says fracking should be banned if the risk to human health can’t be known for sure. A moratorium was placed on coal seam gas activity in the region pending the findings in the chief scientist’s report. It found the use of chemicals in the fracking process would need to be severely controlled or even banned.

Coxs River - one of the rivers that feeds into Sydney's major water supply reservoir. Photo by Sardaka.

Coxs River – one of the rivers that feeds into Sydney’s major water supply reservoir. Photo by Sardaka.

River Murray turtle numbers in crisis  River Murray turtle numbers are in crisis, experiencing a 90% drop in numbers and foxes are believed to be a major cause of the spectacular population crash. Just three decades ago, turtle numbers were estimated to be about 50 million, but recent research has revealed there could be as little as five million left in the River Murray. Apart from potential loss of the species, turtles play a vital role in the health of the river system as they are a major consumer of dead animals in the river.

New species found in Myanmar   A dragon fish with intricate, maze-like markings on every scale, a frog with rough, chocolate-coloured skin and a ginger plant are among more than two dozen flora and fauna species found in Myanmar since it emerged from a half-century of military rule and isolation. The dragon fish, or “scribbled arowana,” is immensely popular in the aquarium  trade. Other threats to the new-found species relate to economic development outpacing environmental protection mechanisms.

World’s oldest sperm found in Australian fossil   The world’s oldest and best preserved sperm has been discovered in 17 million-year-old fossils unearthed in far north Queensland. The sperm of an ancient species of ostracod (small freshwater crustacean), which were found inside a rock taken from the Riversleigh World Heritage area, were not only hardy, but as long as the crustacean itself.


National Water Commission abolished  As predicted, the National Water Commission was one of the casualties of the Federal budget. The NWC will close its doors by 31 December 2014. In its remaining time the NWC will focus its activities on  implementation of their commitments under the National Water Initiative and provide a report on progress of reform and on key issues needing to be addressed in the future.