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Laura Rangers water monitoring continues

By Christine Musgrave, Laura Ranger

The Laura Rangers are continuing to expand their capacity to monitor water quality in the Laura-Normanby catchment. Recently the Rangers received training in operating the new automatic water sampling equipment installed in the East and West Normanby Rivers by the Department of Science, Information, Technology and Innovation (DSITI).

This equipment collects up to fourteen water samples and stores them in a refrigerated container. Storms frequently occur in the afternoon, causing rivers to rise overnight. This equipment samples whenever the river height rises or falls by a pre-set level capturing the entire event. Once analysed, these samples provide information on the sediment and nutrient loads carried by the rivers and their turbidity and pH levels.

The Laura Rangers have been collecting flood water samples for many years but have not previously had the opportunity to work with the auto samplers. Field officers Rae Huggins and Leigh Anderson spent the day with the Rangers instructing them on equipment maintenance, sample processing, sample preservation and resetting the equipment for the next collection cycle.

The Rangers also received training in the use of an app designed by DSITI for recording manual and automatic water sampling data. The app is a step up from the old method of paper recording, and once in mobile range, sends the information to the head office in Brisbane.

Water monitoring by the Laura Rangers is undertaken to support anecdotal evidence from local Elders and community members suggesting that the health of the Laura River is declining. The information can be used to determine current water quality in the catchment and, through modelling, predict future trends and develop water management plans. Once interpreted, the data can be used to identify areas where land use practices and/or fire regimes are impacting water quality, which will then help guide where time and resources should be invested.

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