Upon the publication of her study of the Goulburn River, Julia Imrie hopes that her seven years of work has provided a valuable resource for the future management of the complex ecosystem that includes The Drip Gorge.
As the title suggests, 'Changing Land Use in an Uncertain Climate: Impacts on Surface and Groundwater in the Goulburn River NSW', looks into the effects on the largest tributary to the Hunter River.
It was a collaborative study with Australian National University and NSW Department of Primary Industries - Water (earlier Office of Water), and with a Australian Research Council grant.
"There's three main areas; climate change, which is creating a lot of variability on top of variability; land use, in this case mining as well as agriculture releasing salts in a salty geology to start with; and the fact that a lot of land use is intercepting the freshwater aquifers," Dr Imrie
"And it's looking at the interaction between surface and groundwater and the Goulburn River over time."
The thesis includes case studies on the Merriwa River and The Drip Gorge.
- A new report says climate change, 'inappropriate' regulations and mine discharges a risk to Goulburn River
- Court reserves judgement following review of decision to reject Bylong mine
- Local history: Town Hall Hotel/Colonial Mecca Building - a rocky tale and facade
- Roaring back: Return of Mudgee Coffee and Cars exceeds expectations
"The Drip is a very complex ecosystem and unfortunately it hasn't been studied adequately," she said.
"When you're looking at The Drip Gorge, you're looking at the bed of the river as well as seepage from the rock face. And unfortunately there's a tendency to focus in on just how much water is coming out of the cliff face.
"But it's not just the cliff face, it's the actual flow of the river and the interaction of that surface and groundwater and the plants."
Dr Imrie said that after seven years of work there is a "sense of achievement", but stressed that publication is not the end.
"It was a really hard task to take on. And what people say about thesis is that you don't necessarily know it until you're halfway through," she said.
"But there's a real sense of achievement that I got to the end and produced something which I think is of value. And hopefully will be used by the community and scientifically as a source of information.
"Obviously these things change over time and it doesn't stop at this thesis, there's more work to be done. And I've got recommendations in there on where you can take this research and understanding.
"It doesn't stop at the Goulburn River either, it's applicable to the tributaries that come in and other catchments. Because we're in a situation now where water is so important and our freshwater resources are under threat."
Furthermore, she hopes that a takeaway point is the importance of water management.
"I think we need to have a far better understanding of how our industries and agriculture impact on our freshwater resources. And how we can manage and minimise those negative outcomes that unfortunately we are suffering," she said.
"Come the next drought it becomes even more critical. Because in those conditions with minimal input from rainfall, that's when it becomes most serious.
"When everyone is after water and there's just not enough to go around. And that's when it comes home just how important it is to manage it when there is water."
- The thesis is available at the Mudgee Library and for download from Open Universities.