Source catchment management

Thursday, 12 August, 2010

Applying a whole-of-catchment approach to water management is now possible thanks to Source Catchments, the first component of eWater’s integrated water modelling suite, eWater Source, to be publicly released.

A water quality and quantity model, Source Catchments is designed to help natural resource managers and consultants develop targets, prioritise improvement programs and measure the effectiveness of a broad range of catchment management activities.

The software provides a framework for modelling the amounts of water and contaminants flowing though a catchment and into major rivers, wetlands, lakes or estuaries. It integrates an array of models, data and knowledge that can be used to simulate how climate and catchment variables (like rainfall, evaporation, land use, vegetation) affect run-off, sediment and contaminants.

“We are very pleased to be putting in the hands of the water industry a capability to tackle complex issues in catchment management and find solutions,” says eWater CRC CEO Professor Gary Jones.

“Source Catchments is a resource that can support the work of natural resource agencies throughout Australia by providing answers based on a track record of scientific research. We have had great feedback from our trial users who are already getting benefits in several states.

“New users are invited to download a fully functional copy of Source Catchments from our webpage, with the first 12-month licence fee waived.”

Source Catchments is the first configuration of eWater Source to be released. Previously known as WaterCAST, Source Catchments is built on the E2 modelling framework. It includes additional functionality for assessing the effects of:

  • Groundcover on erosion and water quality
  • Farm dams and groundwater flows on streamflow
  • Groundwater - surface water interactions

Source Catchments can predict the flow and constituent loads at any location in any catchment over time. It usually runs on daily time steps and produces reports at chosen spatial and temporal scales. Scenarios of interest can include actual or planned changes in land use, land management or climate.

Source Catchments allows users to answer a range of management questions, such as where to place on-ground works to maximise water quality. It can also look at how climate change might affect the sediment balance in the catchment, or what might happen if plantation forestry replaces cropping in a certain subcatchment. Source Catchments modelling can be set up to handle bushfires, floods, droughts and construction, all of which can adversely affect catchments.

For the last few years, eWater and its partner organisations have been road-testing and refining the software in a number of major catchments around Australia. These catchments include four whose rivers feed into the sea adjoining the Great Barrier Reef (the Fitzroy, Pioneer, Burdekin and Barron). They also include catchments in Queensland, some catchments of the Hawkesbury-Nepean, the Yarra, and Goulburn-Ovens rivers, and streams in the ACT and the Mt Lofty Ranges, South Australia.

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