May 31

On Monday, May 31, we woke up to a beautiful morning at the Calperum Environmental Station. Our bus driver, and good buddy, Flick treated us to a wonderful breakfast of crumpets, toast, and tea and after a thorough cleaning of the camp we piled in the bus and departed for Banrock Station. As we were leaving we realized we were a bit ahead of schedule (no doubt a result of our no-nonsense day leader), so Flick decided to show us a few of her favorite lookout points on our way to Banrock Station in Morgan.

The Lookout Water Tower offered a spectacular view of the city, its neighborhoods, and the surrounding bush and mountains. Next we stopped at the Kingston Bridge and carefully crossed the road to snap a couple of photos of the floodplains. Before we left we noticed a rather peculiar sign, “ January 1830. Captain Charles Sturt had an exciting experience with natives.” Pondering the meaning of that sign, we once again loaded back on the bus and made our way to our first scheduled stop.

Banrock Station Wine and Wetland Center offered a fantastic example of a company implementing a sustainable business model to encourage environmental conservation.  Originally leased in the early 1850s, the property that would become Banrock Station was initially cleared and used for horticulture and grazing, and wouldn’t be purchased for use in the wine industry until 1993. Originally only 12 hectares worth of vines the station has expanded to more than 240 hectares of vineyards, containing 20 different varieties of grapes. There are currently 1,400 hectares managed for conservation, including 1,000 hectares of floodplains and wetlands.

Our guide Karen Sellar gave us a wonderful overview of the station’s sustainable approach to land and water use.  The key to their rehabilitation of the wetlands and floodplains area was the “ Boom and Bust” cycle in which they controlled the inflow and outflow of water to the area. By intravenously utilizing regulator gates the property simulated natural periods of flooding and drought, which provides a flush of resources and triggers breeding. This process saves 500 megaliters of water per year and provides immeasurable benefits to the species of flora and fauna within Banrock’s borders.

The sustainable approach to their vineyard management is the second phase of Banrock Station’s pledge to resource conservation. Recently Banrock installed sub-surface irrigators across a quarter of their vineyards in an effort to conserve water and improve efficiency. This state-of-the-art update to their infrastructure has reduced their water use by 50% and is the first large-scale trial of this innovative technology. After an informative question and answer period, we left the comfort of the station and went on a wetland tour. Throughout the tour we saw many species of birds and natural vegetation.

After a quick lunch, again prepared by our buddy Flick, we took a ferry and headed towards the Morgan/Whyalla Pipe Line. Upon our arrival we met our guide Tom Stegemann who first took us to the main control room of the water treatment plant.  This plant, which treats and pumps water across eastern South Australia, operates primarily at nighttime when electricity demands are at its lowest. The reason for this is the astonishing $30,000 a day electrical bill paid by the plant to pump the water to the Hanson holding facility. After the initial pump the rest of the pipeline is all gravity fed, which greatly reduces additional energy costs. Incoming water is treated through a variety of agitators, which mixes positively, and negatively charged particles. From there the water is sent to a settled water tank where sludge is vacuumed out and sent to a sludge holding tank. The water is then sent through a filtering process designed to simulate the natural filtration of water. First the water is fed through a layer of coal by-product, then through sand, fine gravel, and finally a layer of course gravel. Tom then led us to the historical pumping site, originally constructed in the 1940’s. Here we discussed the evolution of water treatment facilities in the area and finally, said goodbye to Tom.

Throughout our busy day we saw several examples of Australian ingenuity used to conserve water and other precious resources. At Banrock Station we saw the social, environmental, and economic benefits that a sustainable approach to business provides. The Morgan Water Treatment Plant illustrated water and energy conservation and demonstrated how Australia has grown throughout the years to increase efficiency and reduce misuse of Australia’s most precious resource. We left the treatment plant and headed back to Adelaide, tired, and ready to enjoy our free day the following day.

-John

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Responses

  1. What kind of stores do they have, as far as shoppiing? Are they speciality stores, or are there any discount stores?
    Love you, Sarah

  2. Sarah, do they race horses? Do they race Kangaroos? What is the minimum wage there? What types of crops do they grow? How ‘Americanized” is it there or not. (I hope not!)

  3. I would have to say personally this was one of the coolest days for me. I can’t count the number of times I have learned about water treatment in class, but I have never been to one. To actually see it really helped me connected on what I have learned so far. I had asked Tom that if the drought got worst and the river level decreased greatly would they decrease their uptake of water from the river. He basically responded saying that they can’t decrease their uptake because the city still needs their water. This is where the people of the cities need to step in and become responsible in decreasing their water usage. I also found it interesting that a lot of the pipe used to move the water around were built in the 1960s and have never been fully replaced. If a pipe were to get a leak, they would just remove sections.
    Throughout the past few days, we have heard from several people about the locks within the Murray River that keep the water levels to where they are. However they are now effecting the ecosystem along the river, such as the wetland being permanently flooded even though the wetland goes through natural cycles of dry and wet. This is another ethical question, wondering that should we be using the locks for human purpose or leave it for the environment to with it as it wishes.

  4. Hi mom and grandma 🙂 most of the stores here are either specialty stores or filled w/ tourist cheap items. They definitely have their high class stores and a few malls too! Mom- i have no idea if they race horses/ kangaroos but one interesting thing I’ve discovered is that you don’t have to tip here because the minimum wage is $15.00 per hour! Crazy huh??
    In addition to the above blog, I found it surprising that they actually want to “dry out” the wetlands periodically. This allows seeds that have been in mud on the bottom of the ponds to get sunlight and grow, furthering the native vegetation. It’s kind weird to think that it is a good thing to have “dry-lands” in a wet land once in a while!

    • How much tax do they have to pay? With the min wage at $15

  5. I found the sub-surface irrigation system that Banrock Station installed to be extremely interesting, especially the use of solar powered probes to monitor which vines needed to be watered and when. I learned that the amount of water that a vine gets has a substantial impact on the amount of wine produced by that vine and the quality of the wine produced. The more water a vine receives, the larger its grape output will be. However, those grapes will have less concentrated flavor due to the decreased skin to pulp ratio.
    -Brendan Prost

  6. I was really impressed by the KISSS system the Banrock Station used to save water when watering their crops. KISSS, or Kappilary Irrigation SubSurface System, is put in 20 cm below the ground’s surface, and stops the water from passing throught it. It significantly reduced the amount of water used by 50%. Aside by being very expensive, it is a great and innovative way to deal with the water scarcity problems withing the country.

  7. Tom is looking for ways to utilize the sludge instead of just keeping it in the holding tank or pumping out to the lagoon. So if anyone has any ideas on what to do with the sludge, therefore making the business more sustainable, I think Tom would really appreciate it.

  8. At the Banrock Station Wine and Wetland Center, Karen said that the trail that they made for hiking/tours was designed to have a minimal impact on the environment and minimal disturbance to birds. I thought this was cool because they are taking into consideration everything they do at the Banrock Station and making it sustainable, and I think a lot of tours teaching sustainability don’t think about making their actual tour sustainable.


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