Regional forest hub presents research

The Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub (GTFIH) has presented its preliminary water research findings to South Australian Water and Environment Minister David Speirs as it prepares for the review of the region’s Water Allocation Plan in 2023.

Working in collaboration with UniSA, the University of Melbourne and Esk Mapping, the Hub has undertaken extensive research over the past 12 months to better understand plantation water use in the Lower Limestone Coast to support government in its resource management decision making.

Forest Industries Hub chair Ian McDonnell said the hub was grateful Minister Speirs shared his time to understand the work which looks at various groundwater issues such as reviewing the groundwater management boundaries.

“Extensive time and resources have been spent on this important work as we look to work with the government and other irrigators to put the latest scientific research on the table for consideration in this review,” Mr McDonnell said. “Whilst the existing policy has largely relied on forestry rules to be based on a matter of judgement, these water experts are undertaking this comprehensive research to develop more accurate methods for consideration.”

The hub’s research includes simplifying management zones into as little as six distinct geo regions to aid water trading, aligning zones to resource needs to encourage the best use of available water. Work includes the measurement of sandstone and limestone unconfined aquifer porosity to test the specific yield assumptions and investigating groundwater recharge which illustrated recharge can occur under plantations.

Researchers have developed a simple empirical model of plantation water use which will be finessed over the coming months to better represent actual plantation extraction data, which may result in more groundwater resource availability than previously assumed. Furthermore, work has explored the perceived impact of plantation forests on wetlands using plantation growth as an indicator showing a single prescription basis for setbacks can be replaced with a new method.

Mr McDonnell said further work would continue this year to strengthen the preliminary findings. “These early results are illustrating that we can improve the current management system and ensure more equitable use of the resource for primary producers across the region,” he said.

“We look forward to working with government alongside other irrigators so we can understand how we can all share in this important resource to realise our industry targets whilst providing for environmental needs.”

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