What the ACT Government are doing to improve water quality

Canberra is renowned for its picturesque, tree-lined streets that are lined with beautiful deciduous trees that, come autumn and winter, produce an abundance of colourful leaves. However, when left in gutters or near drains, leaves and their nutrients can wash into the stormwater system during rain events, ultimately ending up in the lakes ready to feed the next algal bloom.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Healthy Waterways program is working hard to tackle the issue in the ACT’s waterways. Take a moment to hear from Ralph Ogden, the manager of the program, who is taking a hands-on approach, and who is focussed on resolving problems in Lake Tuggeranong and other lakes where algal blooms and other pollution problems are prevalent.

To tackle water quality, the ACT Healthy Waterways program has implemented various key actions, including building new wetlands, ponds, and rain gardens. Additionally, research trials, community programs, and improvements to water monitoring practices are just some of the initiatives that are currently being undertaken.

Here are a few of the key outcomes the program has achieved so far

Wetlands – Isabella Pond, Monash

Screenshot of a video of ACT constructing wetlands in Isabella Pond and Monash areas.

Watch the video here.

One of the most notable achievements of the program so far is the construction of wetlands in the Isabella Pond and Monash areas. The adjacent Upper Stranger Pond and Isabella Pond were drained in March 2017 to allow for the work to commence. This dewatering offered a unique opportunity to remove carp, an introduced freshwater fish listed as a pest species. Almost four tonnes of carp were removed and turned into compost and liquid fertilizer. Upper Stranger Pond has since refilled, and the wetlands are now capable of removing over 462,000 kilograms of nitrogen, phosphorous, and suspended sediment every year from urban stormwater destined for Lake Tuggeranong.

Rain garden – Isabella Plains

Another critical feature of the ACT Healthy Waterways program is the creation of the biggest rain garden in the southern hemisphere in the Isabella Plains area. This rain garden boasts a treatment area of 5200m2 and, when it rains, can treat about 1800 litres of stormwater per second before it enters Lake Tuggeranong.

Kambah Pond

Ducks swimming among tall reeds in the water

In addition to these, the Kambah Pond is another crucial aspect of the program. This pond is a popular spot for locals while also playing a key role in improving the health of Lake Tuggeranong. Stormwater is diverted to the pond from mains adjacent to Marconi Crescent, treated by the pond, and returned to the underground stormwater system. Each year, it removes over 28,000 kilograms of nitrogen, phosphorous, and suspended sediment from stormwater run-off before it flows into Village Creek, which, in turn, flows into Lake Tuggeranong.

This is just a small selection of the work completed by the ACT Healthy Waterways program. The program has made significant progress towards improving water quality in the ACT’s waterways, and you can find out more about their achievements to date and you can find out about upcoming projects at www.environment.act.gov.au/water/ACT-Healthy-Waterways.

It is critical to take action to improve the quality of water before it enters our waterways. Clean water is essential not just for us, but also for the plants and animals that need it to survive, and for the thousands of people downstream who use and reuse that same water. The work being done by the ACT Healthy Waterways program is a great example of how we can come together to make a difference in our communities and protect our environment for future generations.

What is The Leaf Collective?

The Leaf Collective has been created by Canberrans and was built and trailed by Social Marketing @ Griffith. The Leaf Collective is contributing to the prevention of algal blooms in Canberra’s waterways. Since launching the pilot program in 2021 more than 345,000L of leaves have been diverted from storm water drains. The program is supported by the ACT Government.

The Leaf Collective, ACT Government, and Social Marketing @ Griffith logos


A close up photo of dead autumn leaves that are of different shades of red and orange.

The path to preventing toxic blue-green algal blooms

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Branches and leaves of a gum tree

The life of a Canberra leaf

Hero or villain? Have you stopped to consider that leaves are litter and when left to their own devices leaves may not be the hero we thought them to be?

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