To minimise the risk of wildfire WaterNSW has fire management plans for
all Special Areas including hazard reduction burns and fire
What is wildfire research?
Wildfire research involves understanding how wildfires impact the vegetation communities within the WaterNSW drinking water catchments. We monitor and analyse vegetation fuel loads using remote sensing technology (satellite imagery interpretation).
We also monitor post-wildfire impacts on vegetation communities, analysing their recovery through time and whether extreme events have long-term impacts on the supply of water from the catchments.
Post-fire erosion and nutrient supply to drainage networks has also been investigated.
Why do we need it?
WaterNSW in partnership with the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) manages more than 9,500 sq km of forested catchments that are susceptible to naturally occurring wildfires. Sometimes these can be contained, other times they cause widespread damage.
In 2001 a series of lightning strikes caused extensive wildfires across 2,250 sq km of forested water supply catchment managed by WaterNSW and OEH. The combination of drought, thick vegetation, strong north-westerly winds and low humidity helped fuel the fires.
The extent and severity of the destruction prompted us to commence an ongoing and comprehensive scientific investigation into the impacts of wildfire on vegetation management, catchment health, erosion, water quality and quantity.
Wildfires are large, uncontrolled bushfires that can result in complete
destruction of plants, trees and subsoil bacteria
What kind of projects are being conducted?
WaterNSW has been researching wildfires since 2001, with our declared catchments being again highly impacted by fire through the 2019/20 fire season.
During the recent fires, over 260,000 hectares of native forests burnt across Lake Burragorang, which supplies Warragamba Dam, leading to a large range of research projects aimed at increasing our ability to manage flow-on effects to water quality. Our ongoing research is focused on refining post-fire erosion models to better predict water quality impacts after rainfall, and to guide mitigative actions through activities such as land stabilisation and the installation of sediment debris booms.
Bushfires and Water Quality Management
How has our research information been used?
Findings from the research are used to update WaterNSW's Fire Management Policy and bi-annual fire management plans, incorporating the latest information on vegetation fuel loads and best management practices. Our research also helps us to decide how we conduct hazard reduction burns.
The scientific data we have gathered (for example the interaction of water, soil properties and topography, fire ecology and vegetation dynamics) has been presented at many conferences around the world and published in scientific papers.