An RMIT University researcher has correlated severity and frequency of bushfires to predict water yield in related natural water supply catchments.
In his PhD research, Dr Anirban Khastagir, of the School of Civil, Environmental and Chemical Engineering at RMIT, has devised unique fire frequency curves to help water authorities in Australia to predict the impact on water yield due to increased frequency of fires resulting from climate change.
A methodology has also been developed to use these fire frequency curves to determine the potential reduction in water yield in any given year for the Victorian catchment, 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 said these unique curves could augment the information used by the Country Fire Authority, Victoria, to determine the risk or probability of the occurrence of bushfire events for any location in Victoria.
"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 metropolis 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 bushfire on 7 February, 2009, that prompted a detailed focus on the effect of Victorian fires on water supply catchments.
For more information: Dr Anirban Khastagir, firstname.lastname@example.org
For general media enquiries: RMIT University Communications, Deborah Sippitts, (03) 9925 3116 or 0429 588 869.