Recovering water for the environment and improving efficiency of water use are critical in the Riverina, but what about the wildlife that have come to rely on the systems of old?
In 2011, the Wah Wah Stock and Domestic Pipeline project was confirmed. This converted an extensive channel system north of Hay to reduce water losses, replacing tanks (farm dams) with troughs, and channels with pipes. There was much concern among locals about the loss of wildlife habitat, especially from tanks, with the changing system.
Hay Landcare initiated a study to assess the wildlife value of the tanks, prior to the construction of the pipeline. It focused on 20 tanks across 12 properties, looking at birds, mammals, reptiles and frogs. The study found that the main users of Wah Wah stock tanks were waterbirds, frogs, bats, kangaroos, rabbits, turtles, parrots, pigeons, White-fronted Chats, Magpie-larks, Willie Wagtails and Common Starlings. At least 40 species were expected to be impacted negatively by the conversion to a piped system because they use tanks regularly and troughs won’t suffice.
This project recommended maintaining water at a small number of select tanks and improving them; creating small wildlife ponds; and the construction of a large, dedicated Wah Wah wildlife wetland are recommended to mitigate habitat loss. Done well, they could even improve overall wildlife habitat quality across the Wah Wah landscape.