David Weldrake

David Weldrake

Dr David Weldrake leads the GIS & Spatial Services section at the MDBA and is responsible for developing and applying remote sensing technology to apply to various MDBA Business needs, including for Basin-wide monitoring and evaluation for ecological outcomes, as well as Basin-wide compliance and mapping. He has a great interest in the effective use of science to influence water policy development. Previous to the MDBA David worked as a research Astrophysicist at the Australian National University, the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Boston USA

Increasing River Resilience Through Environmental Flow Protection: Remote Sensing for Compliance in the Northern Murray – Darling Basin.

In mid-2018, 23GL of environmental water was released by the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments to provide a large-scale connectivity flow along the length of the Barwon-Darling River in the Northern Murray-Darling Basin. The flow aimed to provide critical native fish connection flows along more than 3,000km of river, improve water quality and increase resilience to the system by breaking a lengthy period of no flow. The flow coincided with a temporary ban on extraction, to help achieve the ecological outcomes for which it was designed.

The MDBA undertook a large-scale program to monitor and track the flow using Sentinel-2 satellite imagery and measured gauge data to help ensure it was not being extracted during a time of embargo. The program measured when and where the flow was present, as well as the degree and manner in which it progressed. The program also measured the presence of water in farm storages and dams. By combining this information the program concluded that no significant water extraction had occurred, providing confidence to water managers and environmental water holders that the flow was sufficiently protected. This program comprised the first time such a large-scale environmental watering was attempted, the first time remote sensing was used and the first time an extraction embargo was placed over such a large scale in the Murray-Darling Basin.

The project highlighted the significant capacity remote sensing and satellite imagery has to support compliance activities over large spatial scales. Learnings have been used to help progress a multiple-agency approach to compliance across the Basin, for application to current and future environmental flow events; events designed to greatly increase the river system resilience in preparation for a drier future.

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