The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) recently conducted river health assessments at four sites on the Serpentine River which is helping to provide our projects with important baseline information of what fish and crayfish inhabit the waterway as well as the overall quality of the water. PHCC staff had the opportunity to take part in these assessments, allowing valuable training and experience for future works.

The PHCC’s Waterways Team had the privilege of working alongside the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation’s River Science Team recently whilst conducting routine river health assessments on the Serpentine River. Unfortunately, many of the rivers in WA including the Serpentine River on the Swan Coastal Plain, are under stress from a number of different land-use pressures and climate change. The information collected from these assessments will inform and guide future management actions to help improve the health and biodiversity, as well as provide further understanding of these important riparian ecosystems.

There are a number of different elements that are required to be assessed including surveying fish and crayfish communities, vegetation condition, water quality, geomorphology and aquatic habitat. The major component is assessing fish and crayfish as this provides an integrated measure of river health. These species respond in certain ways to the ecosystem pressures that are not detected by other monitoring methods. Typically, aquatic pest fauna species (such as goldfish, carp and yabbies) will inhabit areas in degraded condition,  whereas, good condition areas show a greater diversity and abundance of native species including marron, gilgies, western pygmy perch, nightfish and the Carters’ freshwater mussel.

As the Serpentine River is one of three main rivers that feed into the Ramsar listed Bindjareb Djilba (Peel-Harvey Estuary), four sites were strategically selected to represent and paint a picture of what is happening across the Catchment so we can understand the current health and condition of the waterway as we continue to invest in their restoration.

With the data still yet to be analysed by the Department, signs were looking promising with native fish and crayfish species recorded at each of the sites. There is still a lot of work to be done and concern for the future of the rivers with regard to pest species of fish and crayfish and other degradation like erosion causing riverbanks to slump and wash away. These sites will continue to be assessed every three to five years so changes can be monitored overtime.

Protecting our rivers must be collaborative if we wish to shape their future for the better. This includes working together with other Catchment groups, local and state government, community groups and farmers to implement a range of on-ground works. We thank the Department’s River and Science Team for their continued support and dedication in helping to improve the health of our rivers and providing the opportunity for Catchment Council staff to learn from the experts. If you would like to find out more, please head to the Healthy Rivers website here

This project is supported by the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council through funding from the Alcoa Foundation’s Three Rivers One Estuary

We acknowledge the Noongar people as Traditional Custodians of this land and pay our respects to all Elders past and present