Platypus numbers have been declining but a new 'smart water tank' project is set to improve the odds for platypus in Monbulk Creek. Image: Doug Gimesy
Original Published Date: 
Monday, August 9, 2021

Full article issued by The University of Melbourne.

A new water system from an ARC-supported research collaboration involving The University of Melbourne’s Waterways Ecosystem Research Group, Melbourne Water, South East Water and the Yarra Ranges Council, is set to improve the odds for platypuses in the waterways around Melbourne.

Platypus have disappeared from many urban areas in Victoria due to habitat loss and modification, but some populations still exist across outer Melbourne, including Monbulk Creek in the Yarra Ranges.

'There’s often not enough water in streams for platypus,' says Professor Tim Fletcher, from The University of Melbourne.

'The loss of summer and autumn base flow has major consequences for the platypus distribution and reproductive success, decreasing their habitat and their primary food source right at the time when female platypus need abundant nourishment to prepare them for breeding. On the other hand, when it rains in urban areas, runoff from hard surfaces like roofs and roads causes erosion, pollution and loss of habitat. Between these two extremes, the platypus is caught between a rock and a hard place!'

Starting in 2022, households in catchment areas managed by Yarra Ranges Council and Melbourne Water will be offered a smart rainwater tank. Using ‘Tank Talk’ flow control technology developed by South East Water, the smart tank can be remotely controlled to release water to the stormwater network, to manage flows for the local platypus population, and help improve broader stream health, while ensuring enough water remains for household use.

Dr Rhys Coleman, Melbourne Water’s Manager of Waterways and Wetlands Research, said: 'These storages will give us greater ability to regulate the flows provided to the creek. This is an exciting collaboration where research, technology and the community all have a significant part to play. It has the potential to demonstrate a new way of managing urban waterways that could have far reaching benefits for not only streams and aquatic life here, but globally.'

The waterways study is funded by the ARC Linkage Program, together with Melbourne Water, South East Water and Yarra Ranges Council.

Photo credit: 

Platypus numbers have been declining but a new 'smart water tank' project is set to improve the odds for platypus in Monbulk Creek. Image: Doug Gimesy.