Water for the Environment

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Coffin Bay near Port Lincoln

After the abundance of sun and water in the Northern Territory, we returned to freezing hail in Adelaide. The cold snap brought folks from miles around hoping to catch a glimpse of snow on top of the Mt Lofty ranges, a somewhat unusual event. My activities moved indoors (thank goodness) as I went to visit with a local PhD student and staff at the South Australia Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, and dove headfirst into to water policy and management.

After numerous conversations, reading up on some water allocation plans, and making an effort to wrap my head around national and state laws and policies, I think I’ve landed on at least one conclusion. Water for the environment matters here. The government of South Australia and its citizens seem to stand by the notion that functioning river ecosystems are the backbone for a functioning society, and that when water gets allocated in times of drought, the ecosystem gets its share. This stands in contrast to my experience with water policy in Arizona, which doesn’t give the environment the same level of respect. More to come on this issue!

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View of Boston Bay from Port Lincoln

While Adelaide relies on surface water from Mt Lofty Ranges catchments and the Murray Darling River Basin for quite a lot of its water, just to the west across the Spencer Gulf, the city of Port Lincoln on the Eyre Peninsula relies entirely on groundwater, and there isn’t much of it. To explore some water issues first hand, we took a quick trip over to the Eyre Peninsula and toured around Lincoln National Park and Coffin Bay National Park. The town of Port Lincoln offers stunning views of Boston Bay, is known for its tourism opportunity to swim with the sharks (as in great white sharks) and is the seafood capital of Australia. We skipped the sharks but partook in the rest of it.

We were lucky to be toured aroundby a fellow birdo (also know as a twitcher) on the first day. We took a look at the landscape from Windy Hill lookout and then popped down to the coast to have a look at the Southern Ocean (where we discussed a recent unfortunate encounter here between a shark and a surfer) before entering Lincoln Park.

Southern Ocean
Southern Ocean

In the park, we hiked up Stamford Hill to look out on the landscape, which was full of great bird and plant sightings.  On our walk we spotted a blue-breasted fairy wren, a willie wagtail, a weebill and a spotted pardalote, to name a few.

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Randy spotting a willie wagtail

Spotted Pardalote
Spotted pardalote, photo by JJ Harrison, Wiki Commons
Some of the plants along the way were from a familiar genus. See more photos of plants along the walk at the end of the post.

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A very prickly acacia plant
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Acacia sp., yes it smells a lot like sweet acacia

Explorer Mathew Flinders came ashore and climbed to the top of Stamford Hill in 1802 in search of freshwater for his sailing crew to drink and discovered that much of the water in this area is too salty to be potable. The area has an interesting groundwater system, with a lens of freshwater that meets the ocean in Coffin Bay and actually bubbles up like a spring in the Bay floor. It is a relatively small aquifer that relies on large rainfall events for recharge and is therefore threatened by potential over use and projected changes in precipitation with climate change.

The Friends of Lincoln National Park had been doing restoration works to restore native vegetation in disturbed areas. Around here that requires rabbit proofing and kangaroo proofing if you have any hope of success.

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World famous Coffin Bay oysters were quite the cap on a wonderful visit to Eyre Peninsula.

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Plants on the hike up Stamford Hill:

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cascade falls from above

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One thought on “Water for the Environment

  1. I thought protecting restoration plants from rabbits and deer was kinda onerous – but kangaroos! That would be a challenge! Great post, thank you for letting us tag along in your adventures!

    Like

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