Community scientists and the scientific community working together to support the recovery of the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle. 
River Health Snapshot

- MAY 2020 - 
Each month, our volunteers test the water quality of our rivers to support river health and the recovery of the Critically Endangered Bellinger River Snapping Turtle. This newsletter outlines our latest data. 
Why do you volunteer with Bellingen Riverwatch?
From Amy (Project Coordinator):
With World Environment Day earlier this month, I would like to give a big shout out to our young people involved with Bellingen Riverwatch. Thank you for connecting with and learning about how we can take better care of our planet. 

This month I would like to welcome two new volunteers to the team - Cath Eaglesham and Inga Van Dyk! I would also like to welcome Emily Rayner from DPIE to the partnership.

Bellingen Riverwatch has recently received a Bellingen Shire Council Environmental Levy Grant application which will contribute to new volunteer manuals, fund tweezers and levels for kits, more safety vests, and tables for training sessions. A massive thank you to Bellingen Shire Council for their continued support of this program!! 

Earlier this year, some of our volunteers took part in the Pesticide Detectives Project, an extensive national Citizen Science project investigating the occurrence and concentrations of pesticides used in homes and gardens as well as agricultural and urban settings in Australia’s waterways. See more info here or April project updates at the links below:


Pesticide Detectives - April 2020 Update
Pesticide Detectives - Key Findings
Pesticide Detectives - Interpretations


Bellingen Riverwatch partners will host an online River Health Panel later this year, where will will have our scientists available to answer questions about river health. Please send any questions to
From Ingrid Garland (NSW Waterwatch): 

Water quality is looking great this month across the board for temperature, pH, EC and turbidity. Mostly the phosphate are great, but are higher for B2, B2.1 and B5. DO is also good for most sites, but very low for B7.1 (Caratti Creek) which may be due to organic matter (falling autumn leaves) decomposing instream and lower water level again which can be seen in the site photos. DO for K4 was also only 58%. Both sites to watch for DO in June 2020.

 Core Bellinger River Snapping Turtle habitat
B1 -  

"Medium flow, fine, sunny weather. no visible pollution. Clear water (a little cloudy in pools)."

B2 - Bellinger River at Cool Creek, Darkwood  

"Slight muckiness due to road works nearby."

B2.1 - Cool Creek, upstream of confluence with Bellinger River, Darkwood (near B2)  

"The road next to stream has just been graded."

B3 -  

"Water crystal clear, nil pollution, river grass, nil fish observed"
B4 - Bellinger River, Hobarts Bridge, Darkwood Road, near Chyrsalis Steiner School, Thora 

"Weather fine with cloud increasing.  Some bubbles/foam visible on surface of flowing water.  Nil wildlife observed.  Nil Odour.  Some 'scum' algae on rocks.  Patches of green stringy algae about but not large or lengthy."

B5 - Bellinger River at Leans Bridge, near Thora Saw Mill  

B7 - Bellinger River at Lavenders Bridge, Bellingen (township) 

"Cold, overcast afternoon with very light drizzle. Clear water running well."

B7.1 - Caratti Creek, downstream of footbridge near tennis courts

"Cold, overcast afternoon with a very light drizzle. Creek had lots of organic debris and a few tennis balls in it. Very cloudy, brown water only just flowing. Birds eating fruit from trees above creek. A dog had a fun swim in the creek after I sampled from it."

B8 - Bellinger River, in front of Repton Public School, Repton

"Low tide. Cool day. No visible pollution, no odour. Water looks relatively clean. Water flow good."

B8.1 - Bellinger River, upstream Norco near Raleigh Public School, Raleigh

"Ducks, algae, fish."

K1.1 - Kalang River, Roses Creek, upper Kalang headwaters

"Steady flow, cloudy, no pollution, wildlife, odour or visible algae."

K1.2 - Kalang River - corner of Wyembah Rd & Kalang River Crossing

"Steady flow, partly cloudy, no pollution, odour or visible algae."

K1.3 - Samuel Creek, tributary of Kalang River, Kalang

"Steady, trickly flow. Overcast, cloudy. No pollution, wildlife, odour, visible algae. The clearest for the year so far. 1109mm rain so far this year."

K1.4 - Kalang River at 'Wyuna', 1690 Kalang Road, Kalang

"Steady flow, overcast, no wildlife, algae present. Little backwater rust/green algae above the test site."

K2 - Kalang River at Pearns bridge

"Weather was fine but cloudy with no wind, very still. Birds (Currawong), water striders, small 1cm school fish. No visible pollution. Someone has cut up a large fallen tree that was making access to the river difficult And several young Casuarina trees along the bank have been cut down."

K3 - Kalang River at Sunny Corner Road bridge

"Cloudy but fine, very still no breeze. Peewees, Wagtails, butterflies. No obvious pollution. Water weed continuing to spread and cover much of the testing area. A small island is developing in the middle of the river a few metres up stream of the testing area."

K4 - Kalang River at Brierfield Bridge, Bowraville Road, Brierfield

"Weeds flowering and fruiting- camphor Laurels and 'sticky' weed."

NN1 - Never Never River at Promised Land Road, Tuckers Nob

"Cloudy afternoon, light rain."

NN2 - Never Never River at Arthur Keoghs Reserve

"Good flow, fine weather, birds present; no visible pollution, odour or algae."

R1 - Rosewood River at bridge on Summervilles Road


The following graphs highlight results from testing on the 
12/13 May 2020 (except B1, which was tested on 28th May 2020), and
14/15 April 2020 (except B1, which was tested on 24th April 2020).

Volunteers, if your data is not showing for a certain month and you are wondering why, it is because it is an outlier and has been removed. 
Removing Outliers

To improve legibility of our Available Phosphate and Dissolved Oxygen data, we removed outliers. Outliers have been removed by determining the midpoint in the upper and lower quartiles, to define the upper and lower bounds of the data. Data outside these bounds has been removed to create our graphs. To view raw data, please see here.
The sites most regularly failing to meet the ANZECC Guidelines for Available Phosphate (mg/L) for Healthy Rivers for Average to-date, April 2020 and May 202 are shown in the graph below. Click on the graph to view an interactive version, where you can click on the legend labels to turn different layers on and off.
Bellingen Riverwatch Available Phosphate Data
View interactive Available Phosphate graph online
To aid interpretation of the water quality results, we have scored them against water quality guidelines to indicate how often they are outside the guidelines, as shown below: 
  • Excellent = below 0.02mg/L 
  • Very Good = between 0.02-0.025 mg/L
  • Fair = between 0.025-0.03 mg/L
  • Poor = between 0.03-0.035 mg/L
  • Very poor = above 0.035 mg/L
The sites most regularly failing to meet the ANZECC Guidelines for Dissolved Oxygen (%sat) for Healthy Rivers for Aaverage to-date , April 2020 and May 2020 are shown in the graph below. Click on the graph to view an interactive version, where you can click on the legend labels to turn different layers on and off.
Bellingen Riverwatch Dissolved Oxygen Data
View interactive Dissolved Oxygen graph online
The complete Dissolved Oxygen data set from July 2017 to present is represented as a box and whisker plot. This plot style is commonly used to show key parameters regarding data sets. The maximum and minimum are represented via the whiskers and the box is showing average data and the median.
The map below for represents Average-To-Date Available Phosphate (mg/L) data geographically (please note we are yet to add sites B8.1, K1.3 and K1.4 to this map).
Frequent occurrence of Available Phosphate results above 0.02mg/L could be harmful to aquatic ecosystems and increases the likelihood of impacts on waterways such as an abundance of algae and aquatic weeds which out-compete native plants; waterways choked with vegetation; increased biochemical oxygen demand; reduced dissolved oxygen; reduced plant and animal diversity; blue-green algal blooms; and eutrophication.

Possible causes of results outside these values include sewage, sediments erosion, faeces from feedlots, dairies and pets, phosphate-based detergents, decaying plant material, fertilisers and industrial waste and natural geological sources.

Scientists from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment (DPIE) are carrying out a comprehensive bi-annual water quality and macro-invertebrate surveys which will help identify the causes of elevated phosphate and nitrate levels.
The map below represents the Average-To-Date Dissolved Oxygen (% sat) data geographically (please note we are yet to add sites B8.1, K1.3 and K1.4 to this map).
Results outside the guidelines could be harmful to ecosystems. Dissolved Oxygen levels below 85% is a threat to aquatic life and the macroinvertebrates that our turtles love to eat. Potential impacts outside ANZECC trigger values include lack of oxygen to support aquatic plant and animal life and fish kills. Monitoring Dissolved Oxygen levels is very important as the Bellingen River Snapping Turtle (BRST) is able to supplement its oxygen uptake through cloacal (bum) breathing, reducing its need to come to the water surface to breathe.

Possible causes of results outside these values include stagnant water, organic waste such as sewage, fertiliser run-off and plant material in the waterway. Micro-organisms use the oxygen as they break down the organic matter.
Note - Outliers have not been removed for 'Other Parameters' table. 

Any questions, please contact

Bellingen Riverwatch is an initiative of OzGREEN and The Department of Planning, Industry & Environment in partnership with Bellingen Shire Council, NSW Waterwatch, Western Sydney University, Taronga Zoo Sydney, Bellinger Landcare, Earthwatch Institute, Eco Logical Australia, North Coast Local Land Services and Jaliigirr Biodiversity Alliance. 
This River Health Snapshot is proudly supported by
Copyright © Bellingen Riverwatch 2018

You are receiving this because you are a Bellingen Riverwatch volunteer, partner, have signed up, attended a Bellingen Riverwatch or OzGREEN event, contacted us, joined one of our groups, or donated to one of our campaigns. 

For questions, please contact Amy Denshire, Bellingen Riverwatch Coordinator
on or 0490 068 685.

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