Most Australians depend on the Murray River for the clean and good quality of water. It is the source of their drinking water. The water from Murray River sustains animal life, home to quite a number of fish species. The water powers food production situated along the river. Not only these livelihoods and diverse ecosystem are dependent on Murray River, but it also supports various recreational activities, like waterskiing, swimming, and fishing, and more.
But the health of the Murray River is in its crucial shape. It is declining due to various reasons, and sand dumping is one.
What Is Sand Dumping?
People creating artificial beach or embarkment tend to dump sand on the river bank. It is often done when unstable rocks or mud are exposed on the river bank. This practice of dumping sand harms the environment and creates safety hazards (may cause riverbank to collapse).
Dangers Posed By Sand Dumping
Once the sand is washed into the river, the quality of the water will decrease as it increases river turbidity. This will then result to in-filling of creek pools. Sand dumping can repress the natural sediments which are needed by the native plants and animals along River Murray. When access to river water for navigation is restricted due to sand dumping, it will create uncharted sandbars and could block the irrigation channels.
Removing sands also has cultural and environmental impacts. It could damage the sites for Aboriginal cultural heritage. It could also cause the spread of weeds, pests, and other contaminants that could pose severe damage to crops and pastures.
It’s understandable that people would always have a beach for boat access. It would be difficult to walk in the mud, and they would need to cover rocks and branches that they do the sand dumping. But that’s just a short-term solution. Sand will be washed away once the river returns to its average level and flow.
This quick-fix remedy leads to costly repairs and considerable damage to the River Murray. It also puts others at risk while enjoying the river.
Is Sand Dumping Illegal?
Dumping has always been illegal and harmful especially when the river is low. The law prohibits the dumping of class 2 pollutants in any body of water. The class 2 pollutants include soil, gravel, sand, clay.
Sand dumping into the river is a violation of the River Murray Act of 2004.
What Is Being Done About Sand Dumping?
Many organizations and government agencies, like EPA (Environment Protection Authority), are working together, conducting education and awareness campaign about sand dumping.
When one found the sand to be causing a problem, he can be asked to remove and deposit the sand in a place where it would not enter the water, especially when it’s windy or rainy. Anybody who is proven not following the law will be penalized.
But if it is found to be intentional or reckless (extreme cases), the violator will pay penalties up to $30,000 for a single person and up to $120,000 for a company.
Other Ways To Stabilize The Riverbank frontage
There are temporary and permanent ways to stabilize the façade of the riverbank. People can use Geotech sheets, temporary plastic floor tiles, shade cloth, and other sand stabilization products to secure exposed mud. This is enough to allow access to boats and the water. They may do this daily or on an as-needed basis. Whatever they put there, they must remove after.
The more permanent works could be cutting, excavating, filling, dredging, and permanently placed Geotech “pillow” bags. If they are to do any construction on the river edge, they need to be to secure a Development Application.
There are other alternative materials and ways to stabilize your riverbanks:
- Maintaining the wall constructed of timber or stone
- Restructure banks using sandbags or any similar materials
- Make sure to secure synthetic turf or geotech fabrics
These are more stable and not sensitive to erosions.
As residents living the stretch of Murray River, it is our responsibility to keep it clean and away from damage. The better the quality of water found in the river, the better the quality of life for us.
River Murray. (2016, July 18). Retrieved from https://www.epa.sa.gov.au/environmental_info/water_quality/programs/river_murray.