Bellingen Riverwatch was created to provide consistent water quality data in the Bellinger and Kalang catchments following a disease outbreak that caused a mass death event of the critically endangered Bellinger River Snapping Turtle (BRST) in early 2015. A lack of water quality data was identified by scientists and community alike as a priority focus area.
The waterways of the Bellingen Shire are highly valued by the local community as they they support many activities, such as recreation and supplementary drinking water. There is therefore a strong community interest in monitoring and improving the water quality and riparian health.
Ongoing water quality data is important for monitoring the rivers’ health, identifying priority areas for management actions and educating the community on how to reduce the impact they may be having on their environment.
Bellingen Riverwatch is an initiative of OzGREEN and The NSW Office of Environment & Heritage in partnership with Bellingen Shire Council, NSW Waterwatch, Western Sydney University, Taronga Zoo Sydney, Bellinger Landcare, Earthwatch Institute, Eco Logical Australia, North Coast Local Land Services and Jaliigirr Biodiversity Alliance.
It is rare to find a project with this level of sustained community engagement, paired with such strong and consistent partner collaboration and focus. The breadth of project partners reflects the importance placed on working together collaboratively with key stakeholders who have a role to play in catchment health and biodiversity. This partnership approach allows us to leverage the expertise and available resources of a strong group of organisations and individuals.
To meaningfully engage the community to provide long-term, scientifically robust water quality data to support recovery actions for the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle ('Myuchelys georgesi') and other threatened species. The reportable elements of this are Temperature (air and water), pH, Electrical Conductivity, Turbidity, Available Phosphate, Dissolved Oxygen.
To adopt a whole ecosystem approach educate volunteers and the community in riparian vegetation monitoring, reporting turtle sightings and evidence of turtle nests, conducting water bug surveys, and improving habitat.
To enable easy access and use of the data collected to the project stakeholders and the community to aid decision making, guide research, inform policy, raise awareness.
- To communicate data to the community in an accessible and timely manner which increases awareness and understanding of river health and threatened species conservation, which builds on current levels of stewardship for their river by community members, landholders, and tourists.
- To connect the community to expertise provided by various subject experts (e.g. scientists, ecologists, academics).