Catchment health drives river health and marine health. Our local rivers are the mainstay to our community, environmentally, socially and economically. The Bellingen region is renowned for its ecological diversity with State Forests and National Parks covering over 53% of the area. In addition, the “magical water holes” of the Never Never River are a major tourist attraction, as heralded in lonelyplanet.com, traveller.com.au and australianexplorer.com. The quality of the water in these rivers and waterways is fundamental to our community’s health and to our enjoyment of them.
It is difficult to describe the extent of the concern our community felt for our river in 2015, when we lost an estimated 90% of our beautiful turtles in an approximate 6-week period. Bellingen Riverwatch has empowered our community to transform their concern into dedicated, constructive action. In turn, we have witnessed a positive change in our local community, which will ultimately contribute to a healthy river system.
However, the situation remains critical for the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle (BRST). The virus responsible for mass turtle deaths left predominantly juveniles in our river system. The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage is working hard with its partners to release turtles from the captive breeding program at Taronga Zoo back into the Bellinger River. This is in a trial phase while the Department of Primary Industries work on resolving questions about the virus that impacted the turtles.
Alteration to water quality is identified as a threat to the BRST (see Blamires & Spencer 2013, NSW Scientific Committee 2016). The diet of the BRST includes aquatic vegetation and aquatic macroinvertebrates and these are both linked to water quality (Allanson and Georges 1999). Changes in water quality can further impact this species because habitat preferences relate to water quality (aquatic vegetation) and physical attributes of waterholes (substrate) (Spencer et al. 2007).
There is a need for ongoing monitoring of river condition to support virus research and potential disease triggers. Data from Bellingen Riverwatch gives us an indication of overall river health. It can assist in prioritising sites for more intensive sampling or refine management actions to improve water quality. This includes targeted riparian revegetation and other associated actions that are aimed at improving the river’s water quality.
Prior to Bellingen Riverwatch, there was a lack of consistent water quality data for the rivers in the Bellingen Shire NSW. The community is passionate about their rivers, but lacked the overall awareness about the threats impacting the rivers' health. Through this project, community members are playing a vital role in water quality testing leading to strong learning outcomes such as increased understanding about river health, threatened species, and ecological monitoring, building community ownership, stewardship, and appreciation for good science. A sense of community ownership and concern for their river is important for ongoing river health.
This project connects the community with all other agencies independently undertaking water quality testing or involved in BRST research, which is a first in this locality.
Bellingen Riverwatch is currently seeking sponsors to support this wonderful project. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your consideration of our sponsorships.
Kit Sponsors | $3500 - URGENT!
We don't have enough water testing kits!
Our most urgent need at present is funding nine more water testing kits to support our dedicated volunteers to gather consistent monthly data. We're crowdfunding to buy one water testing kit and are hoping to fund eight more through sponsorship.
The water testing kit you sponsor will go to one of our volunteers so they can test monthly at a site identified as critical by our scientists. The data they collect is accessed by our eleven partners and supports the recovery of our Critically Endangered turtle.
Your donation goes to the heart of the program - consistently monitoring our river's health.
Our River. Our Future.
2. Youth Leading the World Sponsors | $2500
Bellingen Riverwatch focused Youth Leading the World congress
Imagine thousands of young people coming together across the planet, to learn about global sustainability challenges such as energy, food, climate change, biodiversity and water and plan together how they can lead positive social change.
YOUth LEADing the World (YLTW) is an annual program of activities, that begins with an energising 3-day youth leadership congress conducted simultaneously in multiple interconnected locations.
In 2019, OzGREEN is hosting a congress in Bellingen with a Bellingen Riverwatch focus! OzGREEN would like to thank the Bellingen Shire Council for their support of this event.