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Key Milestone for Source Rivers

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Aerial shot of Yarrawonga Weir and Lake Mulwala. Photo Arthur Mostead courtesty MDBA.Aerial shot of Yarrawonga Weir and Lake Mulwala. Photo Arthur Mostead courtesty MDBA.River modelling in the Murray-Darling Basin has underpinned many of the important river management decisions across the Basin over the last 45 years. River modelling is an integral component of land, water and environmental policy. Examples include state-based water sharing plans, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s salinity strategy and The Living Murray Program.

Across the Murray-Darling Basin there are three separate river system modelling software tools (MSM-Bigmod, REALM, and IQQM) currently in use for surface water planning. Each is applied in different parts of the Basin and with variation in their structure and range of application. This disparate approach complicates cross-model comparisons and modelling across the state boundaries over which the Basin’s river systems flow. Partners of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) recognise that existing models are reaching their ‘use by- date’ and are unable to integrate the extents of groundwater inputs.

The Source Rivers project was born to tackle these issues.

Source Rivers will set the new benchmark for river system modelling, allowing better management of precious water resources for all uses and demands, including the environment. Its consistent across the jurisdictions will provide a consistent, scientifically defensible and transparent approach to river management. Source Rivers will be a vital part of securing Australia’s water supplies for the future.

This major and ambitious project has engaged water agencies across government, research and industry. Source Rivers has drawn on the research and development skills and experience of some of Australia’s leading hydrologists from partner agencies like the CSIRO, Murray-Darling Basin Authority, the NSW Office of Water, the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, and the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment. The federal government have invested $8.6 million in funding from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water Population and Communities and the National Water Commission. The investment in this product from water agencies across Australia reflects on its importance for river management and the urgency of need.

Now the project is in the final stages. In late 2011, eWater will deliver Source Rivers – a complete river system modelling ‘package’ to underpin the next-generation of water sharing plans and the management of river systems across Australia. It will be able to single-handedly model surface water and the influence of groundwater systems across the entire Murray-Darling Basin, accommodating the needs of different catchments and jurisdictions. Furthermore, it will be able to handle additional policy and management complexity (water reform, climate change, and environmental water) and offer a consistent modelling base for water planning and operations.Burrinjuck Dam, 2010. Image by Robert LaneBurrinjuck Dam, 2010. Image by Robert Lane

“The Source Rivers model will further reform under the National Water Initiative. Water Planning is at the heart of water reform in Australia and all Australian jurisdictions have been involved in, and are supportive of, getting this model right. Consequently, we have genuine progress in developing a consistent national modelling platform that will be able to be implemented across the jurisdictions. The Commission believes that the beta version release provides a robust framework for the delivery of the final model at the end of 2011,” said James Cameron, Acting CEO of the National Water Commission.

Following the beta release of Source Rivers in 2010 to partners, real-world trials have been running in different river systems of the Murray-Darling Basin. The release of this ‘Trial model’ was a major milestone in the development of Source Rivers, as Professor Gary Jones, CEO of eWater CRC explains: “We are very pleased to be passing this key milestone in the development of the world’s first integrated river modelling system, built using the best available science. Trialling in real world scenarios is highly valuable, with the excellent feedback we are receiving on all aspects of model capability taking us a long way towards our goal of delivering rigorous, quality assured and ‘fit for- purpose’ models to our partners and ultimately the wider industry.”

Input from the federal government, including investment of $8.6 million in funding from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water Population and Communities and the National Water Commission, reflects the importance and complexity of such a task.

“The Source Rivers model will further reform under the National Water Initiative. Water Planning is at the heart of water reform in Australia and all Australian jurisdictions have been involved in, and are supportive of, getting this model right. Consequently, we have genuine progress in developing a consistent national modelling platform that will be able to be implemented across the jurisdictions. The Commission believes that the beta version release provides a robust framework for the delivery of the final model at the end of 2011,” said James Cameron, Acting CEO of the National Water Commission.

Capabilities

The Source Rivers team is adapting and improving the science underlying the capabilities of existing river models and creating additional functionality required for the next-generation of river system modelling and management.

Building the Source software engine underlying the river model has involved a major research and development effort. This has included development of new lumped groundwater models and enhanced algorithms for modelling the supply of water down multiple supply paths.

Source Rivers will allow users to:

  • Track ownership of water as it is stored and moves through a river system;
  • Swap between spatial, schematic and temporal views;
  • Configure the software as both a planning and operational model;
  • Integrate river system modelling with catchment models to estimate: climate change, runoff generation, forest cover change impacts, and farm dam impacts;
  • Consider surface and groundwater interactions;
  • Support both rules based and optimised solutions to manage the delivery of water from multiple supply storages via multiple paths.
  • Utilise a broad range of demand models including for crops, urban, and environmental needs.

The Murray River from Hume Dam wall.The Murray River from Hume Dam wall.
The software engine allows researchers to answer catchment management and river modelling questions as well as to examine the outcomes of various policy options. Many of the algorithms for addressing Australia’s water management rules (such as accounting and ownership) are unique to this software.

Real world trials

“We appreciate the central role our partners play in the trials. Being able to apply Source Rivers to their real-world modelling situations allows us to refine and adapt the software. This has helped us ensure Source Rivers is ‘fit-for-purpose’ for addressing the range of management needs of different jurisdictions across the Murray-Darling Basin. Such real-world experience forms an important part of quality assured development and we thank our partners for their input.”Dr Peter Wallbrink, Project Director for Source Rivers (and Source Catchments)

In the Namoi (NSW) the groundwater team, led by Dr Ian Jolly (CSIRO), has been testing the Groundwater - Surface Water link model using real world data.

The results confirm the Groundwater - Surface Water Link model will, in a first for any river model, take explicit account of groundwater processes rather than grouping them in with 'unaccounted losses' and 'ungauged residual inflows'.

The Link model predicts the exchange flux between a river and the underlying aquifer at any time step while explicitly accounting for the time lags associated with groundwater processes. This has the effect of enhancing river model forecasting capability.

In the upland catchments of the Murrumbidgee (NSW) and Condamine (Qld) the rainfall-to-runoff modelling framework, known as the Catchment Water Yield Estimation Tool (CWYET), has been tested by a CSIRO team for its ability to predict runoff in gauged and ungauged catchments.

Developed by eWater CRC in partnership with the CSIRO and National Water Commission, this tool provides a rainfall-to-runoff modelling framework that will be integrated with Source Rivers to estimate the water yield and runoff characteristics of any catchment. It also supports the analysis of impacts from such drivers as climate change, afforestation/land use change and farm dams.

Most recently, trials were run in the large upland catchments of the Upper Murrumbidgee (NSW) and Upper Condamine (Qld). The results served to validate the applicability of the framework, and provided feedback on the effectiveness of the different modelling methodologies. This real world testing is also being used to inform development of the CWYET user guidelines.

Like eWater’s other products, this real-world testing forms part of a larger process of best practice model development.

Murray from the air. Photo Robert TatnellMurray from the air. Photo Robert TatnellIn the Goulburn River (Vic), the flow routing capabilities of Source Rivers are being used to explore the options for environmental watering of the Goulburn river floodplains.

Using Source Rivers, SKM and the Goulburn-Broken Catchment Management Authority have replicated the Goulburn system, including its tributary inflows, major diversions and flow routing. Historical data was used to simulate daily and winter flows under current conditions, and the Goulburn model was run for different scenarios.

The aim is to explore alternatives to simply releasing large amounts of water from storage. Of particular interest, are the options around ‘piggybacking’ or augmenting tributary inflows with environmental releases from storage to achieve overbank flooding in the Lower Goulburn.

For improved modelling of environmental needs, an ecological demand component will be available in Source Rivers to allow the user to define environmental watering requirements and strategies for delivery. This includes extending minor flows, augmenting tributary inflows or making a dam ‘translucent’, and allows environmental water to be tracked and managed alongside other water user accounts.

In the River Murray the operational mode of Source Rivers is being applied by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to modelling of the complex regulated Murray system from Hume Dam to Yarrawonga Weir.

The focus for the trial is on the upper Murray catchment and key upstream tributaries, where important inflows and storages are managed for distribution and delivery downstream.

eWater and the MDBA are using Source Rivers to build comprehensive river system simulation models. Using these models, operators can easily compare the way water moves through the river system in response to different inflow and operational scenarios over a range of time scales.

With input from MDBA operational staff, eWater is designing and customising the functionality of the Source Rivers operational component to best meet the specific requirements needed to operate a complex river system.

The overall aim is to improve water management and delivery for agriculture, communities and the riverine environment in the southern Murray-Darling Basin.

Partners and project team

Funding partners

  • National Water Commission (NWC)
  • Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (formerly DEWHA)

 Project Partners

  • CSIRO
  • Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM)
  • NSW Office of Water
  • NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW)
  • Department of Sustainability and Environment (Vic DSE)
  • SA Department for Water
  • SunWater
  • Goulburn Murray Water (GMW)
  • University of Newcastle
  • University of Canberra
  • University of Melbourne
  • Monash University
  • Sinclair Knight Merz Pty Ltd (SKM)
  • Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA)
  • Bureau of Meteorology (BoM)
  • Southern Rural Water
  • Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority

The project team

Management and leadership

  • Dr Peter Wallbrink - Executive Manager, River Systems / Catchments and Climate, eWater CRC
  • Geoff Podger (CSIRO) - Hydrology
  •  Dr Matthew Bethune (MDBA) - Project Manager
  •  Dr Wendy Welsh (CSIRO) - Senior Project Coordinator
  •  Alex Miller (eWater CRC) - Documentation, Training and Communications
  •  Dr Dugald Black (CSIRO) - Best Practice Modelling
  •  Geoff Adams (CSIRO) - Trial Applications
  •  Ian McVay (eWater CRC) - Code Development
  •  Ian Jolly (CSIRO) - Groundwater - Model development and research (GSWIT)
  •  Dr Jai Vaze (CSIRO) - Catchment Water Yield Estimation Tools (CWYET)

Contact

For more information on Source Rivers please contact eWater CRC on:

    * Telephone: +61 2 6201 5168
    * Email: contact@ewater.com.au

 

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