Low river levels concern

LOW levels in the Collie River are worrying locals who have fished and played in the river for many years, according to river campaigner Ed Riley.

June to August months is normally the wettest part of the year but rainfall has been scarce.

“The South Branch is not flowing, the Bingham River is not flowing and the Harris River would not have run since October last year without environmental releases from the Harris Dam,” said Mr Riley.

“The creek systems from Collie to McAlinden are normally gurgling but are just a trickle.

“Although water upstream of Lake Kepwari is described as a trickle, no water has been running into the river downstream of Kepwari,” Mr Riley said.

On July 1, Harris Dam held 43.8 per cent of its capacity — only 31.5 gigalitres (GL). Wellington Dam was at 59 per cent, holding 109GL.

“The Wellington storage level has been boosted by mine dewatering,” Mr Riley said.

Premier Coal was taking 24GL out of the ground. Some was going to Verve and some used for its own purposes but about 16GL would have made its way to the dam.

River salinity has also risen sharply since winter rains, Mr Riley said.

He and a couple of mates have taken water samples at various points along the river.

“Through town the salinity has increased by more than 200 per cent,” Mr Riley reported.

“It is up from 1100 milligrams a litre to 3400mg/l.”

A Water Corporation employee said the increased salinity was to be expected. Salt that accumulated in farmland further east was flushed downstream by the first rains.

“When the river starts running, it brings salt down from the upper catchment,” he explained.