Water and Fire

Woodend Landcare is about to start regular water  sampling, known as “Waterwatch”  on Five Mile Creek. There will be a  regular testing point plus some random locations. This will give us some  insights into the quality of the water and specifically how much pollution  Woodend puts into our creek. We hope to put the results on our blog once the  program gets under way.

Sampling will be complicated by the fact that we  are very near the source of our creek at Camels Hump and the creek tends to be  either flooding or dry much of the time. Sampling an isolated pool in mid-summer  would not prove much.

On the subject of water, we have records of Woodend  rainfall going back to 1889 and for those interested in the weather and its  effects on our lives, there are some interesting numbers.

For example, there have been many wet and dry  periods, so the last ten years is not unusual. In fact the average annual  rainfall in Woodend since records began is about 800mm and over the last decade,  we have also averaged about 800mm.

The other thing that stands out from the records is  the correlation between bad fire years and rainfall. No doubt there has been  much scientific analysis of these figures, so what I am about to say is nothing  more than an observation by an unqualified lay person. However it seems  clear that the worst fire disasters were preceded by a succession of wet years  and then one or two very dry years.

For example before  the 1939 fires, there was a long wet period from about 1916 which was the second  wettest year on record after 2010. In that 22 year period, there were 4 years of  more than 1000mm rainfall. Then we hit the dry in 1937 with only 472mm and  then 1938 had just 397mm. Sure enough in early 1939 the fires came and  then after the fires we had 1129mm of rain – a bit like our recent dry  period, then the Black Saturday fires, then a wet spell. The Ash Wednesday fires in 1983 had a similar lead  up. Reasonably wet in the 70’s then 1982 was really dry with only 477mm. Then  1983 after the fires was back up to 942mm.

 

So with all the lush growth created by our last  couple of wet years, as well as needing to be fire-ready this summer, we will  really need to be watchful if we get another dry year soon.

 

Peter Yates, President