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Water regime

The presence of water and the pattern(s) of wetland water levels are primary drivers of virtually all aspects of wetland ecology.

Understanding the water regime of wetlands is important for Australian wetlands as many go through natural, often extended, dry phases and support a suite of specially adapted organisms. Conversely wetlands that hold water permanently are also valuable ecologically as they provide refugia for flora and fauna during naturally extended dry periods or times of drought, potentially making them a source of colonisers for nearby or connected ephemeral wetlands.

The regularity and intensity of flows can influence water plant growth Photo by DES

Quick facts

flooding reached the highest ever levels in the Brisbane region. In Ipswich the waters rose '55 feet above the ordinary height of the Bremer'[1]
All States were affected by drought with disastrous losses in Queensland. In Western Australia many native trees died, wetlands dried up and crops failed[3]

Brock and Boulton[2] describe the main features of water regime to include timing, frequency, duration, extent and depth and variability.

Feature definition Definition
  • When water is present
  • Within year-patterns are most important in seasonal wetlands whereas among-year patterns and variability in timing are relevant to temporary wetlands.
  • How often filling and drying occur
  • Ranges from zero (permanent waters) to frequent filling and drying in shallow wetlands many times throughout the year
  • Period of inundation
  • Days to years, varying within and among wetlands
  • Rates of rise and fall may be important
Extent and depth 
  • The area of inundation and depth of water
  • Water depth affects light penetration and other variables
  • The degree to which these above features change at a range of time scales


  1. ^ Telegraph. Australia floods: History of Queenslands worst floods. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 August 2012].
  2. ^ Boulton, AJ & Brock, MA (1999), Australian Freshwater ecology: prcesses and management, no. Australian Freshwater ecology : prcesses and management, Cooperative research Center for Freshwater Ecology, Gleneagles publishing, Australia.
  3. ^ R., N (2009), Drought Assessment, Capital Printing Company, India.

Last updated: 22 March 2013

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2013) Water regime, WetlandInfo website, accessed 13 April 2023. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science