Human activities have caused major changes to the flow and quality of water in streams and rivers (hydrology), with significant impacts on native species and ecosystems. For example, construction of dams and extraction of water from rivers for industrial, agricultural and urban use can have a major impact on ecosystems downstream. Erosion of landscapes and degradation of riverbanks can lead to changes in water quality, whilst industrial, agricultural and urban activities can release pollutants and excess nutrients into rivers and streams.
Water in the GER corridor
In the GER corridor, hydrology has been significantly affected by industry and urbanisation. For example:
- Dam construction and infrastructure associated with major hydroelectric projects, such as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, has significantly modified some river systems within the GER corridor.
- Longwall coal mining in some areas of the GER has caused significant damage to stream beds in a number of important catchment areas.
- Runoff of agricultural, industrial and urban chemicals into waterways affects ecosystems downstream, including marine ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef.
GER and its partners are therefore working with communities and organisations to protect and restore native vegetation across the landscape. Maintaining this vegetation, particularly riparian habitat and wetlands, will help to regulate water flows and improve water quality across the GER corridor, by filtering water, trapping nutrients and sediment and preventing stream-bank erosion. GER is also working with organisations such as WetlandCare Australia, to educate communities about the function of water in the landscape, raise awareness of the importance of water to Australian ecosystems and to share knowledge of how to sustainably manage wetland areas for different purposes.