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Challenges and successes of water quality management shared with community

GeoCatch hosted a community forum at the Geographe Bay Yacht Club last night to help inform the crowd of around 45 attendees about the progress and challenges of managing water quality in Busselton’s Vasse Wonnerup wetlands and Lower Vasse River.

Scientists from the Departments of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER), and Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) presented on the management approaches and responses taken by waterway managers to try to balance water quality, public amenity and ecological values in our wetlands and waterways.

GeoCatch Chair Dr Felicity Bradshaw facilitated the evening and said the crowd was very receptive to the complex information presented.

“Water quality management in the Geographe catchment is multifaceted and can be a balancing act.  We had a lot of passionate community members attend the event and I think the presenters did a great job of explaining the science behind the decision making” said Felicity.

Dr Kath Lynch , DWER GeoCapes District Manager, outlined the Revitalising Geographe Waterways program, which has been working to improve water quality in Geographe waterways since 2015.

Kath explained the efforts taken over many years to reduce nutrients leaving farmland and urban areas, as well as innovative ways scientists and managers have been working together to fast track water quality improvements.

DWER scientist Dr Linda Kalnejais presented on the management of the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands, explaining the complexity of sandbar openings, surge barrier gate management and water quality monitoring. Linda explained the challenges scientists have in predicting and preventing water quality problems such as those seen recently with the deaths of Carter’s freshwater mussels in the Lower Vasse River and fish deaths in the Vasse estuary.

“When water quality is poor, we only have a limited number of management actions we can take and unfortunately these are not always able to prevent these events” said Linda.

Kim Williams from DBCA presented the results of monthly waterbird monitoring undertaken on the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands. Kim explained the value of the wetlands, which are internationally recognised for their importance as waterbird habitat. Kim ran through the numbers and species of birds found in the wetlands over several years, and how seawater inflows to the Vasse Estuary appear to have changed the distribution of waterbirds in summer, with many species now preferring the habitat of the Wonnerup estuary to Vasse.

“Finding the right balance between water quality, ecology and public amenity is an ongoing challenge. We are not there yet but we have come along way and are pleased to have the Geographe community on the journey with us” said Felicity.

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