Page 3825 - Week 11 - Thursday, 24 November 2022

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is not perfect. That is why we continue to undertake further research and we have the research partnership with the University of Canberra in particular.

In 2023 the Healthy Waterways program will begin engaging with the community to create catchment plans for managing water quality in our three major lakes and Yerrabi Pond. The catchment plans to be produced under the ACT government’s recent investment in Healthy Waterways will spell out how our water quality goals and targets will be met by a wide range of interventions. These include a program of newly constructed wetlands, ponds, rain gardens, re-naturalised drains and other natural features that clean stormwater.

In the past few years we have been trialling several new wetland designs, and we are continuing this work, with a focus on preventing stormwater from getting polluted in the first place. It is likely to be much more cost-effective to prevent pollution, rather than trying to filter it out of the stormwater once it has reached the large drains, especially in storms, when we know that the majority of nutrients in pollution are conveyed to our lakes. Because of the high volume of water in those storms it is much more difficult to control that flow of pollution at that point in time.

Landcare practices in urban green space will also be reviewed to see if there are more small-scale actions we can take to slow down run-off and allow it to infiltrate into soils, where it gets naturally cleansed. We will also conduct public education campaigns and cross-directorate discussions aimed at decreasing the amount of leaf litter, grass clippings and fertilisers that makes its way into drains. Other work will focus on policy settings, water sensitive urban design codes and compliance, and the challenges of operating and maintaining constructed wetlands. A defining feature of the solutions presented in catchment plans is that they will be evidence based. I want to emphasise that our urban catchments are complex systems and there are no simple solutions to our water quality problems.

As I have detailed, water quality goals will be achieved through many measures in combination. These are things like the constructed wetlands from upper to lower catchments, education campaigns engaging with the community, businesses and other parts of government, in-lake management measures, and adjustments to policies, regulations and codes relating water quality. The complex functioning of urban catchments and the multifaceted nature of water quality problems and solutions makes it challenging to predict how catchments will respond to various measures to improve water quality. Water quality models will be used to evaluate the costs and benefits of alternative competing solutions.

An understanding of the performance of alternative solutions will allow the government to engage with the community and settle on the solution best suited to achieving a catchment goal or target. The defining features of the current Healthy Waterways program are making incremental improvements in water quality, identifying tangible and meaningful goals for investments to improve water quality and formulating evidence-based solutions to water quality problems in our waterways.

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