Burdekin River (Above Dam)

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Subcatchments

Smaller subcatchments within the Burdekin River (above dam) Catchment include:

  • Burdekin River
  • Pinnicle Creek
  • Camp Oven Creek
  • Camp Creek
  • Station Creek
  • Chippendale Creek
  • Cornishment Creek
  • Boughton River
  • Balfes Creek
  • Carlyon Creek
  • Sheep Station Creek
  • Three Mile Creek
  • Arthur Creek
  • Lolworth Creek

Vegetation

Riparian Habitat

iTRARC analysis of Riparian Habitat indicates that this subcatchment has gone from relatively poor (C+) to very poor (D) condition in the last 30 years. This change has been the result of clearing along headwater streams, floodplain clearing and an increased amount of gullying/scalding. The field based surveys also indicate that this subcatchment is in poor condition, the presence of regeneration at all sites provides hope for the future, however the presence of weeds at all sites is problematic.

iTRARC Scores

Catchment Class 3 B
Maximum iTRARC Score 18 (A)
1970s Score 6 (C+)
2004 Score -2 (D)
Reduction in Ecosystem Services Moderate
Increase in Potential for Erosion Large
Reasons for Change in Score
  • Clearing in headwater streams
  • More gaps in the riparian corridor of the main channel
  • Floodplain clearing
  • Increase in floodplain bare soil
  • Large increase in the number of scalds

TRARC (field survey) scores

Survey SiteScoreRegenerationWeeds
Burdekin R [#1]40.4 (D)2 (B)2 spp: 8% cover (C)
Burdekin R [#2]53.6 (C)3 (A)2 spp: 7% cover (C)
Burdekin R [#3]58.1 (C)2 (B)3 spp: 3% cover (D)
Broughton R55.4 (C)2 (B)2 sp: 40% cover (C)
Bend Ck57.2 (C)2 (B)1 sp: 5% cover (B)
Lulu Ck [#4]64.2 (B)1 (C)2 spp: 6% cover (C)
Average 54.8 (C)

Reference:Assessing the condition of Riparian Vegetation in the Burdekin catchment

Wetlands

Much of this sub-division is inundated by Charters Towers Weir and Lake Dalrymple, formed by construction of the Burdekin Falls Dam. Lake Dalrymple is persistently turbid (Griffiths and Faithful 1996, Burrows and Faithful 2003, Butler 2006, Burrows and Butler 2007) and the water quality and aquatic habitat are thus highly modified from the natural condition of this river reach, although it is still considered to be relatively functional (Butler 2006) and is listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia. The deep still water pool formed by the Charters Towers weir is also a significant departure from natural, though not as much as for the Burdekin Falls Dam. The Charters Towers Weir does not affect the river below it, which has almost perennial clear water flow and its condition is typical for the Upper Burdekin River. The tributaries of this sub-division are ephemeral creeks without permanent waterholes, providing limited aquatic habitat value. The limnology of two site along the Burdekin River (one at Big Bend and one at the Sellheim DNRW gauging station) were assessed by Loong et al. (2005).

Reference: Assessing the condition of Wetlands in the Burdekin catchment

For more information see Burdekin River Dam wetland condition summary

Water

SedNet Modelling of Water Quality

Model results for the Broken River subcatchment are summarized as follows:

  • Sub-catchment modelled area: 4,075 sq. km.
  • Source contributions: Hillslope = 46%; Gully = 13%; Streambank = 41%
  • Area of subcatchment with <50% ground cover: 1,704 sq. km or 42% of subcatchment
  • Hillslope sediment supply: 505 kg/ha/yr
  • Total suspended sediment (flow weighted) supply: 441 kt/yr
  • Total suspended sediment supply (flow weighted; normalized to area): 1,082 kg/ha/yr
  • Mean Annual Flow: 3,680,639 ML

Reference: Improved SedNet Modelling of Grazing Land in the Burdekin Catchment

Both hillslope and streambank erosion are identified as the major sources of sediment and particulate nutrients affecting water quality within the Burdekin River (above dam) subcatchment. This subcatchment is essentially a flood plain with little relief but with a significant area with poor ground cover (42%). Hillslope erosion is, consequently, predicted to be moderate (505 kg/ha/yr). Loss of sediment and particulate nutrients from all sources is predicted to be very high (1,082 kg/ha/yr) because of the large contributions from both hillslope and streambank erosion.

Water Quality Monitoring

The monitoring site in the Burdekin River (Sellheim, Upper Burdekin) catchment is located at the Sellheim crossing on the Flinders Highway and has been sampled by the NRM and ACTFR for 5 years. The catchment area for this monitoring site is 36,138 sq km, of which 86.7% is used for grazing. As this site incorporates the entire upper Burdekin Basin area, this site is not useful to specifically characterise the water quality for the Burdekin River (Dam) catchment area.

Relevant information of Water Quality Monitoring:

Environmental Uses and Values

Aquatic Ecosystems

Two areas within the Burdekin River (above dam) subcatchment, both in the upper part of the subcatchment, have been identified as containing High Ecological Value (HEV) waters by the BWQIP ecological values technical panel. These correspond to: (i) part of Dalrymple National Park, including Iron Pot Springs; and (ii) a section of the Townsville Field Training Area. The aquatic ecosystem values of other parts of the Burdekin River (above dam) subcatchment, including the Burdekin River itself, are considered to be Slightly to Moderately Disturbed (SMD) as a consequence of the surrounding land use for cattle grazing.

Irrigation

Limited small crops around Charters Towers. Mainly irrigated by use of groundwater.

Stock Watering

Extensive Grazing. Use of surface and groundwater as stock water. Groundwater is extracted for stock, domestic uses and for irrigation from the ephemeral Broughton River.

Human Consumers of Aquatic Foods

Fish consumption from Burdekin River.

Industrial Uses

  • Light engineering in Charters Towers.
  • Gold mining near Charters Towers at Rishton, Hadleigh Castle, Ravenswood and Wirralie. Mt Leyshon gold mine (although closed) holds a water harvesting licence on the Burdekin River (from Gap Creek storage).
  • Base metals are mined at Thalanga and Highway-Reward Mine.

Secondary Recreation

Recreational fishing . Fish stocking takes place at Charters Towers Weir and in the upper Burdekin River through the Charters Towers Dalrymple Fish Stocking Association Inc. Sailing and power boating on Lake Dalrymple. Popular for recreational fishing. Restocking is undertaken by the Burdekin Fish Restocking Association Inc. based in Ayr. Recreational fishing for persons aged 18 years and above requires a permit to fish under the Stocked Impoundment Permit (SIP) Scheme.

Visual Appreciation

Lake Dalrymple may be considered a tourist attraction. There are no stores, fuel stations or accommodation at the dam, however, there is a camping ground with powered sites and amenities.

Drinking Water

Water from the Burdekin Falls dam supplies townships in the Lower Burdekin area. It is also a “fall-back” source of water for Townsville and Thuringowa if primary sources run dry.

Cultural and Spiritual

Custodial use of water by Kudjala and Birri traditional owners.

References:

Landuse

Principle land uses within the Burdekin River (above dam) subcatchment as a proportion of total area:

  • Grazing: 93%
  • Conservation & minimal use: 3.4%
  • Water: 3.1%
  • Mining: Limited mining activity use identified.
  • Irrigated horticulture & cropping: Limited irrigated horticulture and cropping use identified.
  • Urban & semi urban: Limited urban & semi urban activity use identified.

Grazing Land

Burdekin River (above dam) is a medium sized sub-catchment where the land use is dominated by grazing on natural pastures. Only approximately 3% of the land area is set aside for conservation and minimal use.

Land Condition

Definition of ABCD land condition framework

Results of a Rapid Land Condition Assessment (adopted from Hassett et al. 2000) are presented below. The assessment has been devised to subjectively characterise condition while traversing the BDT region by vehicle. The data are based on a total of 4,666 observations across the Burdekin region between 2004 and 2007.

The data were collected to provide independent information on land condition and provide a regional perspective. Resource assessment data are most useful when interpreted with other sources of data e.g. time-series remote sensing, modelling and water quality monitoring.

The estimated condition of the Burdekin River Dam sub-catchment is proportioned as follows:

  • A Condition: 7%
  • B Condition: 22%
  • C Condition: 55%
  • D Condition: 16%

Data from the Burdekin River Dam sub-catchment is based on 228 observations.

On the basis of the rapid assessment, the Burdekin River Dam sub-catchment is estimated to have the largest proportion of land in poor (C) condition (55%), followed by fair (B) condition (22%) and very poor (D) condition land (16%). Only 7% of observed land was in good (A) condition.

Ground Cover

Ground Cover in the Burdekin River (above dam) sub-catchment is proportioned as follows:

  • ( BC) Bare Cover: 2%
  • ( LC) Low Cover: 51%
  • ( MC) Moderate Cover: 33%
  • ( HC) High Cover: 13%
  • (VHC) Very High Cover: 1%

Data from the Burdekin River (above dam) sub-catchment are based on 234 observations.

On the basis of the rapid assessment (2004-2007), the Burdekin River (above dam) sub-catchment is estimated to have the highest proportion of land within the low (LC) ground cover category (51%), followed by moderate (MC) cover (33%) and high (HC) cover (13%) categories. 2% of land was estimated to fall into the bare cover (BC) category.

Resource Condition Summary

Burdekin River (above dam) is a medium sized subcatchment where the land use is dominated by grazing on native pastures. Approximately 3% of the land area is set aside for conservation and minimal use, while there are a very large number of abandoned and operational mines throughout the subcatchment. The condition of riparian habitat in the subcatchment has declined over the last 30 years as a result of clearing along headwater streams, floodplains and an increased amount of gullying, and is currently assessed to be in very poor (D) condition. Field surveys support this assessment. This section of the Burdekin River has perennial and clear flow over a sandy bottom. The Burdekin River is inundated at two sites by Charters Towers Weir and Lake Dalrymple, formed by construction of the Burdekin Falls Dam. The water quality and aquatic habitat of these impoundments are thus highly modified from the natural condition, although the Burdekin Falls Dam is still considered to be relatively functional and is listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia. The Charters Towers Weir does not affect the river below it, which has almost perennially clear water and its condition is typical for the upper Burdekin River. The tributaries of this subcatchment are ephemeral creeks without permanent waterholes, thus providing limited aquatic habitat.

Both hillslope and streambank erosion are identified as the major sources of sediment and particulate nutrients affecting water quality within the Burdekin River (above dam) subcatchment. The rate of soil erosion is predicted to be high and well above the basin and BWQIP region averages, while the total soil loss to waterways from the subcatchment is also comparatively very high. Grazing land is assessed to be predominantly in poor (C) condition, with a substantial area in very poor (D) condition. This is also reflected in the rapid ground cover field assessment (2004-07). Analysis of ground cover from satellite imagery identifies a large area of marginal 'D' condition land towards the top of the subcatchment, while the mean ground cover across the entire subcatchment declined from 93% in 1999 to 63% in 2004, and had only recovered to 79% in 2006. Significant streambank erosion and gullying along the Burdekin River in this subcatchment has been reported.

Water quality in the Burdekin River is predicted by models to have moderately elevated sediment concentrations during wet season event flows. However, water quality monitoring data from the Burdekin River at Selheim is not useful to specifically characterise water quality for the Burdekin River (above dam) subcatchment area because it drains almost the entire Upper Burdekin Basin.

Burdekin River (above dam) is identified as a priority subcatchment for rehabilitation on the basis of its very high contribution to the total sediment load within the basin, the large area of marginal 'D' condition land, and reported streambank erosion and gullying.

Draft Environmental Values

Two areas within the Burdekin River (above dam) subcatchment, both in the upper part of the subcatchment, have been identified as containing High Ecological Value (HEV) waters by the BWQIP ecological values technical panel. These correspond to: (i) part of Dalrymple National Park, including Iron Pot Springs; and (ii) a section of the Townsville Field Training Area. The aquatic ecosystem values of other parts of the Burdekin River (above dam) subcatchment, including the Burdekin River itself, are considered to be Slightly to Moderately Disturbed (SMD) as a consequence of the surrounding land use for cattle grazing. The human use Environmental Values of the subcatchment include recreation and tourism (swimming, boating and visual appreciation), stock watering, industrial use, drinking water, human consumption, and the cultural and spiritual values of the Kudjala and Birri traditional owners.

Maps

Photos

References

Burdekin River (Dam).jpg
Download Catchment Layer as KML ([http://earth.google.com/ requires Google Earth)

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