Research analysing the severity and frequency of bushfires is helping predict their impact on natural water supply catchments.
In his PhD research at RMIT University, Dr Anirban Khastagir devised unique fire frequency curves to help Australian water authorities predict the impact on water yield due to the increased frequency of fires resulting from climate change.
A methodology was also developed to use these fire frequency curves to determine the potential reduction in water yield in any given year for Victorian catchments, greatly assisting water infrastructure planning.
Different locations of Victoria were regionalised into homogenous areas, based on the Forest Fire Danger Index, to develop the fire frequency curves.
Dr Khastagir, from the School of Civil, Environmental and Chemical Engineering at RMIT, said these unique curves could augment the information used by Victoria's Country Fire Authority to determine the risk or probability of the occurrence of bushfire events for any location in the state.
"Bushfires in water supply catchments can adversely impact the reliability of water supply, thus threatening the wellbeing and prosperity of industry and the community supplied from these catchments," he said.
The Yarra River catchment supplying the Melbourne metropolitan area is one such example.
A set of water yield curves were developed by relating the reduction in water yield with the probability of percentage of area burnt for a one-in-20-year fire event.
"Results from these applications will assist catchment management and water supply authorities to determine the maximum reduction in water yield from affected catchments due to the predicted fire event," he said.
Dr Khastagir has a passion for catchment hydrology.
However, it was the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, that prompted him to take a more detailed look on the effect of Victorian fires on water supply catchments.