Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Day 11

The last Day
We finished our Study Tour of the Murray-Darling Basin after 11 days journey. Today is the last day. Considering climate change, with changes in land use, atmospheric CO2 concentration, Nitrogen deposition and acid rain, is an important and complex global environmental issue. The International Water Centre arranged 5 relative topics in Queensland Climate Change Centre of Excellence (QCCCE). Here we understood basic concepts of climate change, emission scenarios, climate sensitivity, global climate models, developed climate software and international response.

Meeting at QCCCE

Water is a major component of the earth’s climate systems and climate change will affect sea levels, ice caps, precipitation, water vapor, flow regime change in season and quantity, evaporation and runoff. It has the significant role to sustain utilization of water resources and keep healthy life of the Yellow River that study impacts of climate change on hydrology and water resources. QCCCE have carried out some projects using distribution models with a 25km grid, which gave us helpful suggestions, especially the topic Dr Normal Treloar presented, QCCCE software used in China.

Furthermore, Ross Krebs, Regional Manager in Queensland Natural Resource and Water, introduced the water resource management and use at different levels in Australia, such as Commonwealth, State, Local Government and water users, and water proportion in the six sub-catchments boundary, Paroo, Nebine, Warrego, Condamine Balonne, Moonie and Border River in Queensland. Among the contents, we compared the establishment of Water Caps in the Murray-Darling Basin and the water allocation scheme in the Yellow River basin, we discussed exploitation and utilization of groundwater and groundwater entitlements, licenses and bores in the state. All in all, both NRW in Queensland and YRCC have similar objectives: to ensure community involvement and transparent decision making, to balance the water resource between consumption needs and environmental flow, and to keep a healthy river system.

Presentation by QNRW

After Ross’s introduction, due to their interests on the Yellow River, Mr. Song Ruipeng gave a presentation about general conditions of the Yellow River. In the happy exchanges, we finished the whole field trip. These two weeks are a memorable period in which we have achieved much not only the knowledge and information, but also the friendship.

Song Ruipeng's Presentation

By Fan Jie & Jin Shuangyan

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Day 10

All day in the field today.

In the morning, after a quick view and introduction on the salinity issues of the dryland enroute, we visited the “Waterloo” farm of Neal Pfeffer. The land which is more than 1000ha was a treeless plain and was cultivated to grow wheat about 70 years ago when it was bought. However the irrigation development saw a change in crops from wheat (grown in winter) to mainly summer crops — cotton, sorghum, corn and soybeans. We have visited the reservoirs inside his farmland which stores the water pumped from the Condamine River within his water rights. By answering our interested questions on farm related water management, Neal explained how he manages farm costs, how he has improved his water use efficiency, and how his use of modern machinery has reduced his labor costs and increase productivity.

All of us have a common feeling that Australian farmers are totally deferent from the Chinese farmers. The Australian farmers are more like a professional manager of the land and utilize many new techniques and information to increase profits from their farmlands.

At 12:20, we arrived at the Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment Plant of Dalby Regional Council. This plant was one of the first installed in Australia when it became apparent that Dalby was facing dire water shortages. The plant is used to treat bore water that has high levels of salt. The staff introduced us to how the treatment system works. We also drank the water before and after the treatment to have a general idea on how difference they are.

Then we visited the Loudon Weir on the Condamine River under the guidance of Mr. Kevin Graham. The weir is a quite small common one, but the fish-ladder there has attracted our attention. The fish-ladder is being modified to allow the passage of native fish. When it was first build it was found that the small native fish could pass the weir due to poor design on its height and flow. With the new modifications the fish-ladder should provide much improved access to native fish.

After a quick lunch in Dalby, we drove to the Bowenville Reserve, where we talked with Kevin and Noal from the Oakey Freshwater Fish Stocking Association. They talked about work they have undertaken to protect and improve the riparian and instream habitat of the river, with the goal of improving native fish populations. During the afternoon tea time, Kevin (fish stocking representative) showed us many fantastic pictures on the fishes in the MDB and we got much knowledge on the fishes and rehabilitation work being carried out.

Cobby Dam was our last destination today. The dam is a popular place for recreation. The dams water level has dropped largely nowadays from drought and the overuse of water, which has also influenced the environment in this area. Everyone was very exited to find a wild koala and two kangaroos on the way to the Cobby Dam.

After the travel today, George invited us to his house and we enjoyed dinner there. We are happy to see the warm fire inside the house and had a good time with the kind couple of George.

By Harvey & Song Ruipeng

Day 9

Today was a very busy day, we visited several committees and talked with more than 10 people about different topics, such as water planning, water quality, and waste water treatment. We learned a lot about the community-based integrated NRM, we were surprised that there are 56 different NGO committees in Toowooba, and so many people take care of the health of waterways and environmental development.

Phil McCullough, CEO of Condamine Alliance, gave us a talk on the following topics: Community-based integrated NRM in the intensively used Condamine catchment, issues and challenges, approaches and processes.

Geoff Penton, CEO of Queensland Murray-Darling Committee (QMDC), gave us a talk on the following topics: Community-based integrated NRM in the extensive and drier Maranoa-Balonne and Border Rivers catchments, issues, approaches and processes to protect assets; and an overview of Landcare.

Paul Webb, Regional Water Officer of QMDC, talked about the topic: Water quality monitoring and riverine management in the QMD with emphasis on community-based approaches.

Greg Dinsey, Manager of Toowoomba Reginal Council, talked about the topic: Stormwater management and flood mitigation and groundwater recharge in East, West and Gowrie Creeks, also stream recovery and improvement plans and sites.

Alan Kleinschmidt, talked about the topics: State-of-the-art Sewage Treatment Plant, processes and standards, reuse of water, etc.

In QMDC, Wang Ping gave the presentation about the Key Issues of the Yellow River, all the staff were amazed by the great difference of the river condition between here and the Yellow River, in particular, the high sediment, and the huge population of the river basin.

It is a special day – Peter’s birthday, and after today’s activities, we went to buy a birthday cake for him, and then went to an Indian restaurant for dinner to enjoy this happy day. We want to say that: Happy birthday, Peter! Thanks a lot for your help during the past months, we all regard you as our best friend, and we are so glad to make friends with you, in spite of there is so much difference of culture and custom between here and our country and sometimes we may make your annoyed. We hope our friendship can be maintained for ever, and cherish the memory of staying in Australia.

After supper, we went to a table tennis club to meet Greg Dinsey to show our skill of playing table tennis, because we think Chinese people often play well in table tennis. However, in fact, we could not win the competition with Greg, you know, he is the coach of the club, and he is the best one among us.

By Wang Ping & Yang Libin

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Day 8

To Toowooba via Lockyer Valley
After one night sleeping in Brisbane, we continued our study tour in the morning, 7th July to Toowoomba. It was raining when we started out, so it was a little bit later when we arrived at Forest Hill-the first destination of today’s traveling.

Mr.Peter, our tutor and new driver in this trip

Farm land visit
At Forest Hill, we visited farm land in the Locker Valley Irrigation area. The land owner Mr. Linton Brimblecombe, chair of the Locker Water Users Forum and director of the SEQ Catchments (Regional Body), told us some general information related to the topics of ‘Managing over-exploited groundwater resource’, and ‘acquiring new water source-recycled sewage water pumped from Brisbane’. He has nearly 600 ha of irrigated farm land, and employs 4 people. We were surprised that he is so acquainted with the knowledge of water resources and involved in all kinds of activities in this field enthusiastically, especially participating in the affairs of the governments and communities in the water resources management.

photo with Mr. Linton Brimblecomb

Toowoomba Regional Council visit
In Toowoomba Regional Council, Mr. Paul Antonio, Deputy Mayor of the Toowoomba City; and Mr. Kevin Flanagan, Director of the Water and Waste Water Services gave us a warm welcome. Mr. Paul Antonio introduced the brief situation of the Toowoomba Regional Council. After that, Mr. Kevin Flanagan gave us a presentation ‘Local government and urban water supply and management’.

photo with Deputy Mayor Paul Antonio

Passmore Reserve on the Condamine River visit
Finishing our quick lunch at Grand Central Shopping Centre, we went to the Passmore Reserve on the Condamine River. At the spot, Miss Francine Holt, a Condamine Alliance Corporate Partnerships Officer, presented us ‘River Rescue and Demonstration Reach Projects, riparian rehabilitation, school and community involvement, view indigenous artifact ‘.

visit Passmore Reserve in the rain

Water quality in the Condamine River
After check-in at the Clifford Gardens Motor Inn, Mr. Graeme Wockner and Mr. Dave Waters gave us a presentation with the topic of ‘Water quality issues in Condamine-Balonne river system’. The Condamine-Balonne Water Committee has been set up since 1981 to run a community-based monitoring program to detect pollutants that might have entered water supplies through agriculture and other industries.

photo with Mr. Graeme Wockner and Mr. Dave Waters

A palatable dinner
After another busy and exhausting day, it is always great to have supper together and have a few laughs. Tonight, we found the West Lake Restaurant fortunately where we tasted a traditional Chinese food - wonderful.

pleased dinner in the West Lake Restaurant

By Zhu Jie & Li Gaolun

Day 7

A Day in transit - Adelaide - Melbourne - Brisbane.

Pic ?

Day 6

Today was a big day, and it is also a fine day. We departed from Waikerie at 8:30 am, and drove to the Murray River mouth. On the way, we past by the first lock in the Murray River, a small town named Munnum, and drove around Lake Alexandrina, and then arrived the mouth of Murray River.

The first lock
This lock and weir is the first weir and lock in the Murry River from the river mouth, which is not far from Waikerie. The function of the weirs and locks is to supply water for the farmland in the lower Murray River and to give convenience for shipping downsteam or upstream. Along the river, we found different kinds of landuse, such as daily, beef, orchards, vineyards and wheat. Most of the irrigation water comes from upsteam of this weir.

Lock 1

Munnum-River town
We arrived in Munnum at about 11:00 am. Munnum is a typical rivertown, which is near the Murray River. This town is very quiet and beautiful, and groups of wild ducks wander on the river bank. There are good friendships here between humans and nature. Munnum has a long history. The first paddle streamer on the Murray, the “Mary Ann”, was built in Mannum by Captain William Randell and his first epic voyage up the mighty Murray River was in 1853 and was the start of the River trade. In this town, there is a museum.

Lake Alexandrina
Lake Alexandrina is at the end of the Murray River, and is also the end of the first leg of our study tour. Lake Alexandrina is fresh water lake, which under natural conditions would have several passages to the sea. Instead, there are four barrages that prevent the river from flowing to the sea. The lack of flow entering Lake Alexandrina from the Murray River, combined with the effects of the barrages that stop marine water exchange have resulted in very low water levels in the lake, and as a consequence there has been significant environmental impacts caused acid from the “drying out” of acid sulfate sediments.

Our impressions of the Murray River in this study tour
Through this six day study tour along the Murray River, we have heard from many different people associated with the river and have seen first hand the river and its land and community it supports. So our impressions of the river are these:

Firstly, the flow regime of the Murray River have taken great changes in the past; secondly, the governments and communities have taken many measures to protect and rehabilitate the Murray River ecosystem, water quality is in good condition, and many native fish are well protected, vegetation along the river wonderful. All these give us many good experience, when we go back China, it is useful for us to protect our river in china. However, there are also some issues in the Murray River. Because there so many weirs in the Murray River, the water in the river flows so slowly, and the river looks like a stable long lake. Also, because there are barrages between the lake and the sea, many migratory fish can not move upstream or downstream, which makes some migratory fish extinct. Another issue is salination through the Murray River, which result from high groundwater levels. Though there are many measures to stop salination, this problem is still serious.

By Jiang Xiaohui & Peng Shaoming

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Day 5

Today was a big day with long driving distance of more than 500 km, while it’s also an interesting day.

At 7:00 am, we departed from Swan Hill for Waikerie. On the way, it’s often to see groups of sheep and occasionally several emus running through grasslands, which was actually exciting and amazing. The only pity is that we cannot find wild kangaroos. There are different landscapes along the road. Some are large areas of orange orchards, vineyards and wheat crops, and some are lean lands because of water shortage and salinity.

Orange Orchards

Land affected by salinity

We had breakfast at Mildura, a small town. It is a flourishing town indicating the crucial importance of water, by comparison with the salinity and other desolation. Water creates life, economy and a healthy environment for this small town.

Breakfast in Mildura

After breakfast, we arrived at Wentworth to see the confluence of Australia’s two greatest rivers, The Murray and Darling Rivers, which stretch 2530km and 3750km respectively and joints each other here. There are a total of 13 locks and weirs along the Murray River. We visited Lock and Weir No. 10. From the water ruler in the photo, we can see the historical record of flood levels. The inundation occurred in 1974, which is the largest flood in recent years.

River confluence

Lock 10

From the background information, we know that wetlands are one of the important environments in the MDB. Some of the water that would have been consumed by wetlands and the floodplain under natural conditions is now consumed by irrigation or is evaporated from reservoirs. The current situation provides 6970 GL/year for wetlands and the floodplain, which is a reduction from 10960 GL/year under average rainfall conditions. From Mildura, we then visited the McCormack Centre, with its artificial wetland. The centre was established by, donations from an American organization, and its major function is to provide environmental education and awareness.

McCormack Centre

Next stop was the vineyards of Banrock Station, to view their natural wetland and vineyard operations. The wetland at Banrock Station is a RAMSAR listed wetland, and until very recently was completely dry. Banrock Station recently purchased 600 ML of Murray River water and released it to the wetlands, with an additional 200 ML provided by the government. These small releases to the wetland will last till November 2008.

Banrock Vineyards

It’s really interesting to visit Liz Frankel’s house as the last activity today. Liz is an artist, environmentalist and children’s author, whose house is built on the river from recycled material. Both Liz and her husband are artists devoted to art production for environmental awareness. Liz gave us a lovely children’s story book she had written. It’s worthy to mention that they seldom use air conditioners and are planning to utilize the solar energy for electricity in the future. Finally, Yang Libin and Steve gave presentations about the Yellow River and the Murray-Darling Basin Trip respectively. Liz and her family were all interested in those.

Liz’s House

When we left Liz’s house, it was almost 7:00 pm. Although it was a busy and long day, we are all happy with that. Tomorrow is another day, and we are looking forward to the new trip.

By Fan Jie & Shuangyan Jin