ENVIRONMENT & NRM
The Great Southern is richly biodiverse and contains 13 national parks and 143 reserves managed by the Department of Parks and Wildlife, including Torndirrup National Park, the Porongurup National Park, the Stirling Ranges National Park, Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve and William Bay National Park. The region is also home to the internationally recognised Fitzgerald River National Park and Biosphere and Walpole Wilderness Area. The Fitzgerald Biosphere has received international recognition for its biodiversity as it contains over 20% of the State’s plant species and many threatened species of flora and fauna.
The region’s natural environmental features make an important economic contribution to the growing ecotourism industry and the region’s appeal to visitors and tourists. The region also contains a total of 2.78 million hectares of productive agricultural land.
South Coast NRM Inc. is the peak NRM not-for-profit based group in the region which works with community and agency partners to address processes threatening the viability of our natural resources, guided by South Coast NRM’s Regional Strategy, Southern Prospects 2011-2016.
The conservation of our natural resources and stewardship of prime agricultural land are important planning issues in regional development, which has been recognised in the Lower Great Southern Strategy 2007 and Southern Shores 2009 – 2030.
South Coast NRM and its partners work with other NRM regions, Federal and State Governments, and is admired world-wide for its proactive and innovative approach to sustainability, turning challenges into opportunities and dependence into resilience. To read about South Coast NRM and their projects click here …
Climate Change and Water
Climate changes due to global anthropomorphic influences are likely to result in:
- Sea level rise – 0.9m higher than 2010 levels by 2110. Since the early 1990s the southern coast of Western Australia has experienced increases of up to 4.6mm per year. This will have impacts on coastal settlements, infrastructure and ecosystems through inundation and storm surge;
- Reduced rainfall – Rainfall in south west Western Australia has decreased by around 15% since the mid-1970s. Modelling suggests a decrease in mean annual rainfall of 7% and 14% reduction in surface water runoff in the period 2021 to 2050 relative to the 1961 to 1990 period. If current trends continue, the south west of Western Australia will potentially experience 80 more drought months by 2070. A hotter, drier climate will put pressure on water supply infrastructure (especially if population increase predictions are realised).
- Extreme Events – Projections indicate an increase in warmer days, with associated increases in conditions conducive to bushfires. There may be a 60% increase in intensity of the most severe storms and a 140% increase by 2070;
- Reduced Biodiversity – The South Coast NRM region is recognised globally as an ecological hotspot. There are likely to be severe impacts on endemic species due to temperature and rainfall changes, especially in fragmented landscapes;
- Agriculture Yield Reductions – Agriculture is a major export industry for the Great Southern. By 2070, south west of Western Australia is likely to experience yield reductions in wheat, with some marginal areas becoming non-viable due to warming and reduced rainfall.
Given the vulnerability of the Great Southern to projected climate change, it is important that appropriate actions are taken by the whole community. One of the highest priorities in this adaptation plan is to secure water supplies to meet environmental, domestic and industry needs in the future.
The maintenance of water infrastructure is also an important consideration in the supply of water. The need for long-term planning to secure access to water supplies is an urgent priority for the region and new drinking water sources will be considered to service towns, including Albany, Denmark, Mount Barker and Walpole.
Treated wastewater from Albany’s Wastewater Treatment Plant is used to irrigate 575 hectares of Tasmanian blue gums at the Albany Tree Farm and the trees are then harvested and sold for woodchips, creating a small offset for running costs. Wastewater recycling planning and upgrades for Walpole, Denmark and Mount Barker are underway.