- – Domestic
Master of Integrated Water Management (Partial Scholarship)
The River Health and Environmental Flow project aimed to establish methods for assessing and improving river health and environmental flows in Chinese rivers.
The project was part of the Australia-China Environment Development Partnership, a five-year program of the Australian and Chinese Governments, funded by AusAID. The project was undertaken in conjunction with the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources and Ministry of Environmental Protection.
Pilot studies were completed in three river basins in China: The Yellow River, The Gui River (in the Pearl River basin), and The Taizi River (in the Liao River basin).
The pilot study was undertaken with the Yellow River Conservancy Commission and focused on the lower reaches of the basin, an 840km stretch from Xiaolangdi Reservoir (the last major reservoir on the trunk stream) to the estuary.
A holistic environmental flows assessment was completed, focusing on the flow needs of a series of important wetlands and the river delta. Based on the study, two alternate flow regimes were proposed – one represents a low risk to ecological health, and the other a medium risk.
A river health assessment was undertaken, using existing management targets to select appropriate indicators. The indicators related to:
A report card was completed describing the results of the river health assessment. A companion report shows different management initiatives across the river basin aimed at improving ecological health.
The pilot study was conducted on the Gui River, a northern tributary of the Pearl River and a famous tourist destination with a unique karst landscape. The study was undertaken with the Pearl River Water Resources Commission.
Twenty-four sites were sampled across the catchment and assessments were made of water quality, benthic macro-invertebrates, fish, algae, aquatic and riparian vegetation, and physical form. In addition, catchment disturbance and hydrological alteration was assessed using existing data.
Different indicators were tested against levels of catchment disturbance to identify those that responded predictably. Based on this and other factors, suitable river health indicators were selected. The results of the assessment were used to develop a river health report card.
A detailed environmental flows study was completed for the Li River, an important reach of the Gui River. The study identified the flow regime needed to support fish and vegetation, to maintain water quality and the river’s physical form, and to allow the passage of tourist boats.
The pilot study was conducted on the Taizi River, one of the main tributaries of the Liao River, which is a major industrial region in northeast China. The study was undertaken with the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Science, the key research arm of the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
Seventy sites were sampled across the catchment and assessments were made of water quality, benthic macro-invertebrates, fish, algae, aquatic and riparian vegetation, and physical form. In addition, catchment disturbance and hydrological alteration was assessed using existing data.
Different indicators were tested against levels of catchment disturbance to identify those that responded predictably. Based on this and other factors, suitable river health indicators were selected. The results of the assessment were used to develop a river health report card for the Taizi River.
The same method was subsequently applied to a further 175 sites across the Liao River basin. The results were used to complete a river health assessment and report card for the Liao River.
Detailed river health and environmental flow assessments were completed in the three pilot rivers. Based on this work, a recommended environmental flow regime was identified for each river and a river health report card was prepared. The results were used to make national recommendations, including draft guidelines for river health assessment and a national environmental flows framework.
The project developed a method for assessing river health based on changes to hydrology. A software tool – Flow Health – can be downloaded and used to automatically undertake the assessment.
Significant training activities were also carried out to improve the capacity of Chinese water managers in the fields of river health and environmental flow assessment.