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EDITORIAL: Contest reflects value of water

Dean Lawson editorial 2 2017
During discussions about the values of ‘environmental’ water, it is hard to avoid conjuring up idyllic mental images of wilderness and wildlife.
The thought of swaying riverbank trees, greenery encroaching on a waterway, busy birds on the wing and the buzz of insects makes some of us feel all gooey about our connection with the environment.
Isn’t that what making sure we allocate environmental water to waterways is all about?
Well yes, but it only provides insight into a small part of the story. The truth is, environmental water is as much, if not more, about people.
A prime example of the socio-economic value of and what high-quality water means to people will unfold at Jeparit next week when anglers gather for the town’s reinvigorated annual fishing competition.
The April 15 Easter contest, organised by Jeparit Anglers Club and offering more than $10,000 in prizes, is on the Wimmera River at the lowest section of the river catchment, where angling enthusiasts have reportedly been enjoying good catches of native fish. Fishing clubs and organisations arrange contests regularly across the country, so what makes this one so special?
The Wimmera River system is a complex artery that, unlike many rivers, flows south to north with a primary flow ending in terminal lakes.
Circumstances governing the waterway means it balances precariously on the knife-edge of boom and bust cycles, depending on the availability of water. And it’s the times of ‘bust’ that can hurt river-front communities, such as Jeparit.
It was less than a decade ago during the millennium drought that ecologists recorded details with helpless dismay, as what was left of the Wimmera River in and around Jeparit deteriorated.
River water, tainted heavily by saline intrusions, became so salty and oxygen-free that it underwent a kaleidoscope of environmental colour changes, transforming from a lifeblood for riparian or river-frontage wilderness, to a toxic poison.
Not only was the river and the surrounding parkland in serious strife, but so too was the Jeparit community, which in watching its river die, struggled to veil an erosion of social morale.
There were some analysts at the time who believed circumstances were so dire and the river so degraded that the lower reaches were destined to become a saline wasteland, which would have devasted the northern Wimmera community.
History shows that drought-breaking floodwater came in the nick of time to flush the river system.
But the harsh reality remains that the lower catchment is vulnerable and in times when water is at a premium, we must manage it carefully.
Anyone who stood on the river bank and observed the fluorescent pink and orange and, in the end jet black water, would be amazed that the waterway is again home to any form of aquatic life, let alone big fish.
The revamped fishing contest, in its fifth year, attracts as many as 400 competitors who travel from across the region and interstate.
Money generated from the contest goes back into the Jeparit community.

The entire April 5, 2017 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

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Posted on Apr 5 2017

Posted by on Apr 5 2017. Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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