‘It’s a first for the Top End’: Cultural water needs project kicks off

Date: Dec 11, 2021

Publication Type: Blog

Subject: Newspaper

IN a first for the region, the Northern Land Council is working with Traditional Owners, Wardaman Rangers and the Northern Territory Government to work out how much water is needed to protect cultural values in one of our significant rivers.

Rangers measure water flow using a Pygmy Meter.

Water is important for everyone – we all need water to drink, while plants and animals need water to live, grow and breed. Industries such as agriculture, horticulture and mining also need water to produce products.

Where water is in high demand, it is especially important that enough water is available to ensure culturally important places and cultural uses of water are protected now and into the future.

In partnership with Traditional Owners, Wardaman Rangers and the NT Government, the NLC has started working to determine how much water is needed to keep wetlands, springs, creeks and the Flora River flowing to make sure that cultural places always have the water they need.

Wardaman IPA Rangers prepare water testing equipment.

The first step of the Cultural Water Needs Project is to identify the culturally important places along the Flora River. Some information about important places has already been collected and documented in plans like the Wardaman Indigenous Protected Area Management Plan and the Giwining-Flora River Joint Management Plan. 

Information about other important water places has been collected during field visits this year.  

The next step of the project is to determine what water is needed at those places during different times of the year.

In some cases, the stream or spring is small and Wardaman Rangers have worked with the NT Government to measure water flows. If it is safe to do so, Rangers use a pygmy meter to measure how much water flows through the stream or out of the spring every second.

In other cases, we need to work out how much water is flowing in large sections of the river. Where it is not safe to enter the water, a boat is used to measure the water flow.

Water samples are collected at all the sites and then taken to a laboratory in Darwin. Samples are then tested to make sure the water is healthy.

The project will continue into 2022 and the information collected will be used by Wardaman Traditional Owners to make sure the water needs of culturally important places are protected into the future.

It is hoped this will be the first of many projects to come with the NLC looking to commence cultural water needs projects in other areas over coming years.