Water is a valued and utilised natural resource in the region
Water is essential for maintaining life and also underpins the economy of the region, supporting agriculture, manufacturing and tourism. Water supports a wide diversity of species and ecosystems in the region and is valued for the sense of place, recreational opportunities and connection that waterways provide. Wetlands, rivers and their estuaries, are all signiﬁcant to Traditional Owners of the region, as productive places that yield food and ﬁbre, and as sites for cultural practices and ceremonies. The water theme encompasses a range of subthemes, which include rivers, wetlands, estuaries and groundwater.
Rivers, creeks and streams are some of the most valued and recognised natural features in the region, collectively referred to as rivers in this section. The region’s rivers are renowned for recreational activities like fishing, boating, camping, swimming, picnicking and bushwalking. They are economically valuable for tourism and fishing, provide water supply for stock and domestic use and contribute to the region’s beauty and character. Rivers connect inland areas to the coast and allow for the movement of water along with flora and fauna, nutrients, and other resources.
In the Glenelg Hopkins region, wetlands range from deep permanent lakes to shallow ephemeral marshes and swamps and can be fresh or saline, large or small. The region has more than 7,600 mapped natural wetlands, covering 117,000 ha (4%) of the region’s area. Wetlands contribute significantly to the overall biodiversity of the region. They are an integral part of the region’s landscape and identity and underpin social, recreational and cultural value. Wetlands are some of the hardest working parts of the landscape. They help support the regional economy through tourism, agriculture and fishing activities. They absorb and filter floodwaters, replenish groundwater reserves and act as direct surface water supplies for stock. Wetlands also store sedimentary organic carbon and account for a substantial portion of carbon stocks in the region.
Estuaries are where rivers meet the sea – a mixing place of seawater and the freshwater that flows from the catchment. There are eight major estuaries in the Glenelg Hopkins region – the Glenelg River estuary, Fawthrop Lagoon, Surry River estuary, Fitzroy River estuary, Yambuk Lake, Moyne River estuary, Merri River estuary and the Hopkins River estuary. All are subtly different, influenced by local geomorphology, flow, degree of development along their rivers, and the condition of their catchment. Estuaries are highly valued by the local and broader community for their scenic beauty, recreational fishing, swimming, camping, bird watching and boating. Most estuaries have towns or other settlements along them, and they are a significant drawcard for tourism. They provide essential breeding areas and drought refuge for many fish species, along with critical breeding and foraging areas for birds, invertebrates and aquatic mammals. They also support a diversity of aquatic plants, from sea grasses to salt marshes.
Groundwater is water found underground in the cracks and spaces in soil, sand and rock. Groundwater has accumulated from rainfall over very long -time frames and quality ranges from saline to very fresh. Groundwater supports a wide range of environmental and economic values across the Glenelg Hopkins region. It Groundwater has a complex relationship with terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems that which is often poorly understood.