colour, digital, history, landscape, ruins, topographics

at Lake Albert

April 10, 2016

After attending  the Centre of  Culture,  Land and Sea’s   informative workshop at Meningie in South Australia.  I used the opportunity  to explore around  Lake Albert and the Narrung Peninsula with its legacy of settler agriculture before driving on  down to Salt Creek  for a photoshoot for the Edgelands project.

Lake Albert, along with Lake Alexandrina,   is a part of the Lower Lakes of the River Murray,  and  is adjacent to the northern lagoon’s eco-system of the Coorong. Being at the bottom end of the highly engineered River Murray,  Lake Albert  suffers from the river’s  minimal environmental flows.  Those at the  terminus of the River Murray receive what is left over after consumptive use in the Murray-Darling Basin.

 Though  the  Barrages at Goolwa were constructed to maintain the Lakes as freshwater systems at a constant water depth, the Lakes/Coorong region is  at the end of a major river systems, which  means that this region is highly sensitive to changes in freshwater flows. Despite the Basin Plan, which has addressed the overallocation of water  from the Basin’s rivers  by irrigated agriculture,  not enough fresh water currently flows into Lake Albert  to flush the lake  out,  so it is salty,  and all the  contaminants from the upper part of the river end up in Lake Albert.
Lake Albert, South Australia

Lake Albert, South Australia

The irrigators around  Lake Albert suffered from a lack of water during the Millennium Drought (from 2002- 2010)—-when Lake Albert was closed off from natural river flows by a Government constructed band at the entrance top the Lake.   Exposure and oxidation of acid sulfate soils due to falling water levels from 2007-2009 in the Lower River Murray and Lower Lakes also resulted in acidification of soils, lake and ground water. The low water levels on Lake Albert  resulted in many of the dairy farmers, who had  relied on pumped water from Lake Albert,   being  forced to sell their cattle and even abandon their dairy farms.Currently, the water   in Lake Albert  is still well over 2,500 EC units (the Australian and New Zealand standard for a fresh water body is 1,000 EC or lower) and dredging at the Murray Mouth  to keep it open has begun again. The negative economic impacts on the local economy and dealing services through the reduction in the number of  irrigated dairy farms indicated that the  irrigated dairy industry in the region is not viable.

If the  reduced freshwater flows into the Lakes/Coorong Region is seen as unacceptable to the local community around the lakes region, then the upstream and interstate irrigators and water users favour opening the lakes to the sea to reduce the demand for environmental freshwater flows.

No vehicle access

No vehicle access

Increased temperatures from climate change will  mean further reduction in   inflows  in the River Murray,  and there are ecological and economic limits/constraints  to adaptation to the changing conditions of water availability in the Lakes Region and the Coorong. The latter’s southern lagoon, which   has been deprived of surface and groundwater inflows from the extensive wetlands in  the south east due  to the draining of the wetlands to the sea to increase agricultural land, is in a very degraded state. Though the aim of the  Upper South East Drainage Scheme   is  to put low salinity water into the south lagoon via  Salt Creek,   the drainage channel was dry.

Reduced water inflows means the wetland of the southern lagoon’s  has become hyper saline whilst the populations of bird species has declined dramatically. The most likely outcomes from climate change is  decreased water availability and  declining water quality as the southern part of the Murray-Darling Basin  becomes drier. Since the current plans to return water to the environment do not meet the requirements to maintain the ecological character of the wetlands in the Basin as whole, we can anticipate that the vulnerability of the Coorong will only increase with climate change and rising sea levels.

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1 Comment

  • Reply At Wallaroo - Thought FactoryThought Factory April 18, 2016 at 1:56 pm

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