A permanent aerator could be installed in Keepit Dam to keep the water healthy and avoid mass fish deaths such as those in the Darling River in recent days.
WaterNSW has confirmed this was “one of the areas being looked at to reduce the prospect of fish kills at storages in our hardest-hit areas”.
“Keepit would fall into that category,” spokesman Tony Webber said.
“With government, we’re investigating that option, primarily for reducing the likelihood of any other fish kill.”
The Leader contacted the water managers after anglers spent hours circling the water in Keepit Dam on Saturday in efforts to help the native fish, including some endangered species, survive the conditions.
Members of Lake Keepit Family Fishing Club headed out in tinnies – “all you can get in there at the moment”, president Anne Michie said – using their propellers to aerate the water for fish and other dam dwellers such as turtles.
Ms Michie said it was “slightly out of the box and only a stopgap”, but seemed to have worked until, hopefully, a permanent aerator could be installed.
It came as the dam sat about 0.4 per cent after an all-time low of 0.3pc, and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers called for a federal royal commission into the management of water in the Murray Darling Basin.
“These lakes and dams create their own ecosystem and are destroyed when completely drained,” Tamworth candidate Jeff Bacon said when he and party MLC Robert Brown visited the dam yesterday.
“These ecosystems and the negative social impacts need to be considered when these decisions are made.”
Ms Michie said she hoped a major fish kill in the dam itself could be staved off.
“There was a fish kill below the dam before Christmas, and we saw a couple dead at the weekend, but there hasn’t been a big mass kill.
“We’ve had reports people are spotting some big cod that are really starting to suffer; they’re coming to the surface of the water to get oxygen and, in the process, they’re getting bleached – it’s quite interesting to see cod with white backs ...
“We can’t fix what’s happened – we haven’t got any more water to put in the dam – but if we can try to keep the water quality reasonable, hopefully we won’t see any fish deaths.”
Ms Michie, who is also a soil and water scientist, said the water was lacking in oxygen and rising in temperature due to low levels and a lack of flow and activity.
“We spent about three hours cruising around, putting air back into the water and having a really good look around at what the conditions are like,” she said.
“I haven’t seen any algal blooms out there as yet; that’s been good – but there’s a huge amount of birds out there, pelicans and cormorants, having a good feed.”
Ms Michie said the native species in the dam were Murray cod; golden perch; silver perch and eel-tailed catfish – both endangered; and bony bream.
Along with DPI Fisheries, she said fishing clubs at Keepit, Gunnedah, Tamworth and Manilla had “put a lot of money into stocking the dam over the years”.
Mr Brown said the royal commission must be “far-reaching”.
“The imbalance that has been revealed by the current drought conditions cannot be condoned and left to continue.”
The Leader also contacted DPI Fisheries but did not receive a response before deadline.