Waterholes and landscape health

News article |

They are known under many names in the Aussie vernacular - waterholes, deep holes, deep pools, ponds, swimming holes, permanent waterholes, billabongs and more. They are the spots in the creek you might have spent time as a kid looking for yabbies, fishing and cooling off, or perhaps the spot your grandparents pumped water from. Over centuries passed, they were important places for the families of Aboriginal Australians.

Permanent pools are naturally occurring pools of water within creeklines, they are often a bit deeper than the rest of the creek and might be spring-fed. Most importantly, they retain water and sustain life through the hottest and driest parts of the year.

And protecting them might just be one of the simplest and most meaningful actions a landholder can do to protect the environment in a changing climate.

Despite recent rain flushing out and replenishing creeks across the state, as our landscape and watercourses dry up later in summer, waterholes and permanent pools will begin to reveal themselves.

While in some cases they don’t necessarily ‘permanently’ have water all year-round, they might retain water for at least 11 months of the year. They can be quite small like a pond, or large like a swimming pool.

Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu Senior Stewardship Officer Will Hannaford is keen to highlight the importance of permanent waterholes to private landholders and offer advice on how to best protect and manage this key natural feature of many properties in our region.

“Permanent pools are often subtle and overlooked, but are one of most important environmental assets of our entire regional landscape. Some landholders who have a creek running through their property may not have given much thought to their permanent pools, so we’re really trying to raise awareness and let people know how their simple management actions can make a huge positive impact.

“Properties with permanent pools provide habitat for native fish, plants, birds, macro-invertebrates, insect pollinators and more. These species all need water to differing degrees, and in many cases, a small pool will sustain them through summer. This is important for ensuring a rich aquatic biodiversity persisting throughout the year and into the future.

“Water is the life-blood of our landscape, but the focus on permanent pools more recently came about through our work in the Cudlee Creek fire scar, where almost 600 km of creekline was affected in the 2019 fire. Restoring the entire watercourse length of the affected area was well beyond our means, so we had to focus our efforts to get the best bang for the fire recovery dollar.

“Permanent pools and creeklines are the first places to bounce back following bushfire and they need our protection. This was witnessed first-hand by our fire-affected landholders. Their dedicated action along creeklines included well thought-out steel fencing, protection of regenerating watercourse trees like red gums with kangaroo-proof tree-guards, and providing troughs for watering livestock instead of letting them in the creek,” he said.

“Livestock have the ability to quickly decimate the volume and quality of water in a permanent pool, and fencing that pool off to keep livestock out is a great start. While it’s always best to fence the whole length of creekline on both sides, we understand that it’s not always possible. Fencing the area around the permanent pool and setting up troughs for your livestock is an excellent way to protect these sensitive ecosystems on your property. Water from a trough is also a healthier option for your animals”.

“Another tip is to improve creek flows, by reticulating water to your creek from your dam. A small siphon pipe can be easily installed over the top of the dam wall to provide a trickle flow to your creek. Passing these ‘low-flows’ downstream has many benefits. They can bring longer periods of flow that stimulate fish breeding, freshens the pools and reduces stagnation. This helps aquatic plants to re-colonise which improves conditions for macroinvertebrates and native fish communities, and improves stability of the overall watercourse,” said Will.

Want to learn more about permanent pools on your property – contact Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu to speak with your local Stewardship Team on 8391 7500, or take a look at the online resources for dam and watercourse maintenance and restoration here.

Listen to Will speaking to Selina Green from ABC Country Hour about permanent pools

Waterholes and landscape health
An example of a well fenced permanent pool. The cattle’s water needs have been met via the trough and this pool can flourish. Some well-planned revegetation work to secure the banks and create habitat will see this part of the watercourse sustain delicate water-dependent species through summer.

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