THE Coorong has seen a significant increase in water levels and health due to the high inflows in recent months.
High inflows started due to the flooding in Eastern states and since, South Australia has seen an increase in rainfall, with current inflow expectations to continue through to September.
To accommodate for the increased water flow into the Coorong, there are over 120 water barrages open in comparison to three open at the same time last year.
It is good news for the Coorong's Northern Lagoon, however the health of the Southern Lagoon is still in serious decline, according to Coorong resident Geoff Gallasch.
Mr Gallasch, a member of the Coorong Partnership and of Friends of the Coorong, said the Northern Lagoon's health could be attributed to high sea levels.
"Because the barrages are open, the water is coming in from that end, and the sea is now getting higher, the water can't get out through the mouth so easily and it's coming back down," Mr Gallasch said.
"In the summertime when seas are lower, the water goes straight out the mouth and doesn't really come back down the Coorong."
Although the current rainfall has seen a definite increase in water health and levels, the Coorong is expected to increase by another 200ml to 300 ml however, the reduced rainfall in warmer months will significantly decrease the current inflow.
While this may not impact the water's health for a number of years, without the same levels of rain in future the health will decline significantly.
Unfortunately, the high inflows mostly stop at the Coorong's Northern Lagoon, restricting the healthy water's flow into the Southern Lagoon.
The restrictions stopping the Northern Lagoon's inflow to the Southern Lagoon have developed over decades, although the restrictions from the South East have played a major role in the Southern Lagoon's decline.
The Coorong's Southern Lagoon has received a consistently diminishing level of water from the South East, to a point where almost none is making its way into the lagoon - with the only current inflow point from the South East being Salt Creek, with insufficient flows to flush the lagoon.
Geoff Gallasch said the inflow into the Southern Lagoon has decreased over time because of farming, tree planting, climate change, and the digging of drains directing the water straight out to sea.
"Years ago, the dunes had cattle and sheep on them, and all the vegetation went, they were just bare," Mr Gallasch said.
"And you still see it now... what we call the Saharas, when the wind is blowing you can see the sand moving and it hits the water, drops in, and it settles.
"So it's settled over the years and the water, it'll get in... but it just builds up in nutrients and salinity, it doesn't flush out anymore," he said.
To reintroduce flow into the Southern Lagoon, the Coorong Partnership is looking at a range of projects that will benefit the health, including dredging.
The plan indicates the partnership won't damage any of the reefs and rocks, but just remove the sand to increase flows and therefore the ability for the Coorong to flush the water between the lagoons before the saline levels become too high.
Mr Gallasch said that to bring the southern lagoon back to its original health, it would have to be a Federal Government funded initiative, with estimated quotes between $100 million and $500 million.
"We've got to fix that southern lagoon up, money's got to be spent on that, otherwise it's just going to be a stinking, smelly hole that fish may live in, certain times of the year," Geoff said.
"Some of that water comes back through [to the northern lagoon], you'll see it in the summertime when the Coorong is down... it's very yellow water, patches of it.
"It'll affect the Northern Lagoon, but if you've got the flows it won't be critical, but the Southern, that'll die," he said.
"If we have another Millennium Drought then forget it, it'll be gone, but I reckon [the Southern Lagoon has] another five or so years, so we better pull our finger out and try and get some money from the Federal Government."
Due to the high water inflows, Murray-Darling Basin water users have recently received 100 percent water allocation.
Minister for Climate Environment and Water Susan Close said water users can feel secure with their full allocations.
"Much of our state's prosperity and environmental sustainability comes from the River Murray which is why our government is committed to making the Murray a priority for South Australia again," Ms Close said.
While the allocations benefit water users, the large amount of excess unregulated flows cannot be dammed and held in lakes, therefore forcing the water into the Coorong, beneficial to water levels.
On top of the 100 percent allocation, the State Government still owes Murray-Darling Basin water users 450 gigalitres of water, with two gigalitres already supplied.
Mr Gallasch said the owed water may not make much of a difference now, but during drier years it would be crucial in maintaining water health.
"Go back last year, the year before, yes, it would have been very beneficial, because the flows weren't that great," Mr Gallasch said.
"To have over 100 gates open at this time of year is quite phenomenal... normally you would just have fisher ways open."
Although the current high inflow is beneficial to the Coorong and the River Murray's health, the Mid Murray Council has put out a warning to all river users and riverfront property owners.
Current river levels and flows are nearing the threshold of 40GL, reaching 36GL on Friday, June 17.
Once levels cross the threshold there are increased risks, including faster river currents and the likelihood of submerged debris.
Mid Murray Council Mayor Dave Burgess said Council is encouraging river users to be wary of the increased flows and the possibility they may increase further.
"We're fortunate to enjoy some of the most beautiful parts of the Murray River right here on our doorstep and it's fantastic to see it looking fuller and healthier after droughts only a few years ago," Mayor Burgess said.
"However, with the increased water levels, there are other possible challenges we need to be mindful of.
"If you're out on the river, be mindful that conditions have changed and, even if you know a particular swimming, kayaking, boating or fishing spot well, there's always a risk of strong currents or new underwater dangers," he said
"Check your surroundings thoroughly, wear appropriate protective gear such as a personal floatation device, and always tell someone of your intended movements."
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