Pioneer River system trial application

The Pioneer River system is a small regulated catchment near Mackay in mid-north Queensland. The system has complex water-sharing rules, which are modelled by the Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation, and the Arts (DSITIA), (formerly Department of Environment and Resource Management) each time a new Water Resource Plan is released.

The Pioneer River is located in a relatively high rainfall zone. The total catchment area (1580 km2) is regulated through the operation of two major dams (Teemburra Dam, Kinchant Dam) and three weirs (Mirani Weir, Marian Weir, Dumbleton Rocks Weir).

Several water products are managed in the scheme, including unsupplemented entitlements, two classes of supplemented entitlements and groundwater entitlements. Most water diversions are for sugarcane farming and town water supply.
The Pioneer River system includes ecological assets that are protected through environmental flow rules, such as the freshwater eel tailed catfish (Tandanus tandanus).

For many years, DSITIA has used the Integrated Quantity and Quality Model (IQQM), a hydrologic (surface water) model with limited representation of groundwater processes. In August 2011, DSITIA began a project to develop, calibrate and compare two parallel hydrologic models for the Pioneer River system, in eWater Source integrated modelling system  and IQQM. Jointly supported by eWater and DSITIA, the project will continue until the release of the upcoming Pioneer Valley Water Resource Plan in 2013.

The trial application is testing a wide variety of Source functionality, such as rainfall-runoff modelling, flow routing, inflows, losses, storage operation, water accounting, demands, groundwater interaction,data imports and exports, and statistical analysis of results.

DSITIA is testing and comparing two approaches to annual accounting resource assessment systems (also known as ‘water sharing’), using an external plugin and the annual accounting GUI (graphic user interface) form.

The Pioneer project was groundbreaking amongst the trial applications of Source for managing rivers in that DSITIA used Source to develop a new hydrologic model; other trials converted existing models. This tested Source’s capabilities in the areas of data preparation, inflow calibration and routing calibration.

To calibrate the model, DSITIA has tested Source’s inbuilt Sacramento rainfall runoff model (a catchment water balance model that relates runoff to rainfall with daily data), which compares sufficiently to the IQQM platform. It anticipates that calibrating Source’s Sacramento model will be easier, making it the preferred rainfall runoff model for Queensland catchments.

Benefits of Source

DSITIA identified the benefits of Source over its existing IQQM model as its:

  • user-friendly interface, allowing models to be built quickly and transparently
  • graphing tool, making it easier to visualise and export model results
  • common cross-agency platform
  • sharing of methodologies
  • plugin interface, to create different custom pre- and post-processing tasks.

Since the Source trial started, DSITIA has built a schematic of the Pioneer River system, defined storage-level and rating tables for all the major physical works, implemented the Pioneer's water-sharing rules using the plugin interface, and undertaken routing and inflow derivation (including rainfall runoff modelling and storage inflow derivation) for 30% of the catchment.

As it offers such powerful and flexible tools on a modern software platform, DSITIA will use Source to model Queensland’s river systems in the years to come.