Scientists fight to save Southwest cave


Scientists are successfully pumping water into a West Australian cave to maintain water levels in an attempt to preserve it.

Lake Cave in Margaret River has slowly been drying up over the last 20 years.

Environmental Scientist and Research Officer Sarah Davies says the system has been successful so far.

“At the moment there’s been no change and the water level isn’t climbing either,” Ms Davies says.

“We’re delivering 150 litres of rainwater into the cave each day for one hour and the aim of that is to maintain the level of water in the cave.

“We’re not trying to increase the levels, we’re trying not to let the cave dry out.,” she says.

Lake Cave is located around 20 kilometres south-west of Margaret River.

It’s one of the only caves in the area to still have water.

Water in a cave is an indication it’s still active, meaning it’s still growing.

Ms Davies says there was an extensive research process involved before the hoses were installed into the cave.

“We’re using rainfall harvesting which is basically the collection of rainfall in rainwater tanks, delivering that via hoses into the cave.

“So we’re supplementing the natural infiltration into the cave,” she says.

“We had to get a complete picture of what we have at the moment.

“The beginning of our research was all baseline monitoring, consisting of biological survey, to try and find out what type of fauna we have in the cave and if its changed since 2000, when the water level was much higher.”

“We had to monitor the water level and quality for a about a year to develop a better picture.”

Ms Davies says there could be many reasons for the water level declining, among them a lack of rainfall in the area as it appears other caves have dried out as well.

“The thing that’s different with Lake Cave is the rainfall was increasing and the water level was decreasing, which makes us think it’s something different.”

Ms Davies says they’re looking at the possibility of something using the water before it comes into the cave, like Karri forests or Bluegum tree plantations.

The system was installed early in October with experts from the Department of Environment and Conservation collaborating on the project.

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Categories: Environment, Science

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