Hope springs for re-emerging wetlands

Diamantina wetlands coming back after bore capping to be protected

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Emerging springs at Elizabeth Springs in the Winton area. Pictures supplied.

Emerging springs at Elizabeth Springs in the Winton area. Pictures supplied.

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Artesian spring wetlands in Queensland's west that are re-emerging as the result of artesian bore capping programs will be protected under a $1.5m Natural Resources Investment Program investment.

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Artesian spring wetlands in Queensland's west that are re-emerging as the result of artesian bore capping programs will be protected under a $1.5m Natural Resources Investment Program grant.

The money will be used by Desert Channels Queensland in a two-year project identifying, mapping and implementing measures to safeguard and nurture the budding springs across the Longreach, Diamantina and Quilpie shires.

According to Department of Natural Resources executive director Jarrod Cowley-Grimmond, the combined work of Queensland and federal governments over two decades has seen more than 700 uncontrolled bores capped and 14,300 kilometres of drains put through pipelines.

"(This) has supported the reinvigoration of wetlands that for decades were in decline," he said.

"These actions help save almost 210,000 megalitres of water out of the Great Artesian Basin each year.

"Saving this water has increased the water pressure below ground, acting as catalyst for the re-emergence of these springs."

The springs, while relatively small, are oases in the outback, supporting a diverse mix of flora and fauna, and acting as a safe haven for them during times of drought.

The project aims to encourage the return of native fish, crustaceans and plant life in the ecosystem by improving groundwater quality and protecting the emerging springs.

"They not only create a habitat for fauna, they also have a strong spiritual connection to the local Indigenous peoples," Mr Cowley-Grimmond said.

A rehabilitated healthy spring as a result of Desert Channels work.

A rehabilitated healthy spring as a result of Desert Channels work.

Desert Channels Queensland CEO Leanne Kohler said their two-phase plan would first predict areas where springs were likely to re-emerge and then implement protective measures.

"Utilising decades of data and monitoring information on these areas, we have the ability to identify where water pressure is growing and take action to preserve the environment around these springs," Ms Kohler said.

"Historically, some of these springs acted as the primary source of water in the area and had great significance culturally and environmentally.

"We are engaging with traditional owners and intend to put in place land management protocols to encourage the return of native species and preserve the recovery of artesian spring wetlands."

Desert Channels Queensland has now been awarded more than $3.5 million in NRIP funding, including $1.4 million to work with landholders to stabilise streambanks and increase ground cover vegetation over 140,000 hectares on the headwaters of the Diamantina River and adjoining the famed Combo waterhole.

This latest project is due to be completed by June 2022.

The story Hope springs for re-emerging wetlands first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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