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Isabella Plains rain garden completes $93.5m ACT Healthy Waterways project

Lachlan Roberts 20 June 2019 37

The rain garden in Isabella Plains is the largest in the southern hemisphere. Photos: George Tsotsos.

With the final planting that took place at a rain garden in Isabella Plains this week, the ACT Government has completed it’s $93.5 million multi-project, two-year initiative to improve Canberra’s waterways.

The initiative which included an $85 million Federal Government investment, has seen ponds, wetlands and rain gardens built and creeks restored while wetlands have been created in Evatt, Holder, Melba, Monash, Fyshwick, Narrabundah and Kingston.

A culmination of 20 individual projects, it was the territory’s biggest ever water quality infrastructure initiative and was designed to reduce the number of nutrients, sediment and pollutants entering waterways.

ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja and ACT Environment Minister Mick Gentleman marked the completion of the ACT Healthy Waterways initiative on Tuesday (18 June) at the rain garden in Isabella Plains, which is the largest in the southern hemisphere.

Mr Gentleman said the 20 new assets had the biggest footprint of any water quality infrastructure ever undertaken in the ACT and were filtering pollutants from our stormwater.

“These projects are world leaders in terms of size and scope. The Isabella Plains rain garden, for example, is the largest in the southern hemisphere,” Minister Gentleman said.

The ACT Healthy Waterways project included extensive research into Lake Tuggeranong.

“It’s a great credit to the project team responsible for design and construction that the project has been delivered on time and on budget, with finishing touches expected in coming weeks.

“Over the next two years, the community will see the assets settle into their environment as over half a million plants grow in, helping to filter the water and beautify the surrounds.

“By the end of June, there will be nearly 1000 stencils on footpaths all over the ACT reminding us all that stormwater flows into our lakes and waterways. Waterwatch has also seen over 200 volunteers monitoring 232 waterway sites across the ACT and the surrounding region.”

The work included University of Canberra research into improving water quality in Lake Tuggeranong, which was plagued by blue-green algae.

Lake Tuggeranong looked bright green three months ago.

Dr Fiona Dyer has led a team of researchers from the University of Canberra as a part of Healthy Waterways to investigate the sources of stormwater pollution, how pollutants behave in our lakes and ponds and how to manage water quality in Lake Tuggeranong and other urban lakes.

The ACT Government also announced additional University of Canberra research to inform management of water quality in Lake Tuggeranong, to continue to look at management interventions for the lake with the aim of reducing blue-green algal blooms.

Mr Seselja said the Federal Government’s investment was vital for the ACT and the Murray–Darling Basin and water management.

“This project represented a once in a generation opportunity to significantly improve water quality in the ACT’s lakes, as well as the Molonglo and Murrumbidgee rivers and the broader Murray–Darling Basin,” he said.

“Projects such as this are only possible because of our strong economy and I’m very proud to have been able to deliver this funding for Canberra.

“Clean water is essential for life, not just for us, but for all the wildlife and plants that depend on it. Clean water is also a vital resource for households and businesses in the ACT and downstream in the Murray–Darling Basin.”


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37 Responses to Isabella Plains rain garden completes $93.5m ACT Healthy Waterways project
Jodie SB Jodie SB 6:41 pm 24 Jun 19

Haven’t read the article, don’t need to - its Labor’s fault!

James Daniels James Daniels 3:05 pm 24 Jun 19

Are the works at Fadden Pines and Gowrie playing fields part of this project? If so it doesn't appear to be finished as there's still construction fencing up.

Judy Owens Judy Owens 9:30 am 24 Jun 19

What about this blue/green algae issue in Lake Tuggeranong?

    Jeff Smith Jeff Smith 1:42 pm 24 Jun 19

    Spot on Judy. All that money and they couldn't focus their effort on Lake Tuggeranong as the big water issue to address. I can't believe during the project that Lake Tuggers has got worse, smells worse and has become environmentally worse while the Project Managers are singing their own praises for spending up the money.

Rob Parker Rob Parker 11:16 pm 23 Jun 19

What a waste of $$$

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 12:30 am 24 Jun 19

    How so? Please explain why.

    Rob Parker Rob Parker 12:37 am 24 Jun 19

    How do you justify 93.5 mil on a glorified filtration pond, and they're popping up everywhere. Maybe if they just cleaned out these ponds regularly they could have saved about 90 million.

    Rob Parker Rob Parker 12:38 am 24 Jun 19

    The bird life and other fauna was already abundant and just to appease the Greens no doubt

Maya123 Maya123 1:34 pm 23 Jun 19

I ran out of allowed words when replying to Capital Retro, and I wanted to add the following. It does tie in with the wetland development. So I will add it here.
Sometimes evidence of the natural slow water-flows through the old wetland systems can still be seen if one looks carefully for green. Even old aerial photographs, before building, might show evidence. Even in our suburbs.
When my house was built that unearthed evidence of a pond as part of an ancient water-flow system, in my back garden. My fruit trees, now big enough, grow lushly with no watering from me, more evidence of this old water-system. In droughts I see an area of green in the middle of dry grass in an open area, a few streets from my house. The planted gumtrees near that green grass are also the biggest in the street, more evidence of the old water flow. It’s slightly downhill from my house, so I suspect the two places would be connected, and in the past the water would have been slowly fed though this water network to the local Mill Creek. I have seen an old aerial photograph of my suburb before development, and it might be showing this old water network, but as it’s B&W I’m not sure if I’m reading this correctly, although it matches my old pond and the green area I mentioned. This local stream I am pleased is now being turned into wetlands.

Urban development with its concrete surfaces is not natural. Slowing the water is beneficial to the environment. These wetlands are wonderful. Well done.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 12:14 am 24 Jun 19

    There’s a lot of concrete in these trendy wetlands.

    Without the water you are hoarding they will become dry-lands.

    Maya123 Maya123 9:32 am 24 Jun 19

    So you do admit that water collected on concrete and off roofs and piped away, removes water from the local area, that in the past would have been allowed to settle there. You admit that this could dry the area. The remnants of the water system I mentioned, flows under a lot of houses, and much of the water that falls on those houses is just how you like it; caught on the roof and sent to stormwater, or runs off concrete into the gutter and then into stormwater. Yes, I too have a driveway and that water flows directly to stormwater, but at least the water from my tank it is released to the area where the rain fell.
    Or could it be that you don’t like others to have a tank when you don’t?

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:29 am 24 Jun 19

    The wetland we are talking about on this thread which has lots of concrete is not in my local area.

    What is the point in having tanks at your home when we have a reticulated water supply which we pay a lot for?

MERC600 MERC600 10:56 am 23 Jun 19

And who’s going to clean them. The traps for rubbish we now have are neglected.

Lochie Phillips Lochie Phillips 10:55 am 23 Jun 19

Jacob doing the lords work Clement

    Jacob Angelatos Jacob Angelatos 10:57 am 23 Jun 19

    TG010 good asset that. Had a bit of an issue with the growth of African Love Grass but Steve from Able Landscaping has done wonders on the job.

    Jacob Angelatos Jacob Angelatos 10:57 am 23 Jun 19

    Clement McManus tag Ethan

Tanya Higgins Tanya Higgins 8:41 am 23 Jun 19

I wish the article explained what a rain garden is and how it is expected to work.

Margaret Welsh Margaret Welsh 4:31 am 23 Jun 19

The mess that Isabella Pond is now contradicts what is being said. It looks like a stalag of concrete blocks.

Margaret Welsh Margaret Welsh 4:26 am 23 Jun 19

The mess that Isabella Pond is now contradicts what is being said. It looks like a stalag of concrete blocks.

    Richard Fitzpatrick Richard Fitzpatrick 10:05 pm 23 Jun 19

    The article says it'll take a couple of years to settle in. That's how these things work. No contradiction.

    Margaret Welsh Margaret Welsh 9:51 am 25 Jun 19

    Sue Sutton, I don't understand your thumbs down. The Fadden Pines and Gowrie projects are part of the overall water management system that ties into Isabella Pond. Have you walked on the bike path side of the pond and seen the mess that it is?

bj_ACT bj_ACT 9:12 pm 22 Jun 19

So Lake Tuggeranong is actually in a worse state than before this work started and I remain concerned that the funding decision makers got their priorities totally wrong.

Way too much of that $90 million was wasted on the projects that the politicians and executive liked, not enough of the money on the projects that would fix our most affected waterways.

I went to a few of the community meetings about the projects and issues raised were ignored.

Angie Fearon Angie Fearon 8:54 pm 22 Jun 19

Now we need some rain...

Paul Irving Paul Irving 5:58 pm 22 Jun 19

This is an amaxing and very innovative infrastructure project. Congratulations to all involved. Will have long-term influence on lake water quality and ecosystem integrity.

Brett Ward Brett Ward 5:25 pm 22 Jun 19

Courtney Mark Kim Danielle one of our projects

Kristen Saep Kristen Saep 2:15 pm 22 Jun 19

Michelle Wittholz how cool is this?

Jim Rick Jim Rick 11:20 am 22 Jun 19

This is fantastic.

Gerrie Mackey Gerrie Mackey 10:49 am 22 Jun 19

Fantastic addition to the area..👏👏

Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:30 am 22 Jun 19

“……..all that storm-water flows into our lakes and waterways……..”

Incorrect. A lot of water, too much in fact, is captured by residential and commercial water tanks and just sits there. Why this was made mandatory baffles me as we have a reliable reticulated water supply and there are very few lawns in Canberra these days.

We wonder why the major inland rivers have stopped to flow and we now see the reason. Indeed, these “healthy waterways” will soon be “unhealthy” because there will be no water for them.

I would like to see the ACT government tell everyone to drain their stored water into these waterways and after it goes through them a substantial environmental flow could assist the dying rivers downstream.

In the meantime, we need water restrictions as this drought still has some time to go.

    Maya123 Maya123 11:37 am 22 Jun 19

    Capital Retro wrote, “captured by residential and commercial water-tanks and just sits there”
    Very unlikely people would spend a lot of money setting these up (not cheap) and then let them “just sit there”. It indicates to me how little you understand the use of tanks when you write, “there are very few lawns in Canberra these days.” How can you possibly think that’s all they are used for? Mine flushes the toilets and is used in the washing-machine, which then flows down the drain like other toilet flushes and washing-machine water. The rest is used in the garden to water the fruit trees, vegetables (I grow much of my own food) and other plants; many native (no wasteful lawn), and then sinks into the soil as it would have had nature been allowed to have its way. There are natural local water flows too, but maybe unseen, underground. This is more natural than capturing the water and removing it from land where the rain fell and then depriving these local water flows. (Tanks can only hold so much, by the way, and once full the rest then flows to storm water.)
    Water in dams, to use what you wrote, ” just sits there”. If you can accept dams (and if you didn’t, much of the time no water would come out of your taps), think of tanks as small dams, because in effect there’s no difference. Perhaps if lots of people had rainwater tanks, connected to their houses as mine is, it would reduce the need for new (large) dams, because those tanks in effect are acting as small dams. By using tank water, I use less dam water.

    However, perhaps everything concreted in would suit you better; with every bit of water captured and going to storm-water.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:58 pm 22 Jun 19

    What you use them for is what they were designed for but you are one in the minority that does.

    Mandatory harvesting and hoarding of water is like all well meaning but useless gestures such as deposits on some plastic containers whereby very few people redeem them for the surcharge value because they don’t need the money.

    And water in storage dams just doesn’t sit there – have you checked the levels of all water for human consumption dams in Eastern Australia lately? Are you aware that is now almost impossible to construct a water storage dam on a farm in NSW?

    No, it wouldn’t suit me to see everything concreted but when I came to Canberra in 1983 water was being wasted on a couple of hundred thousand people when it should have been shared with everyone – the city I came from in NSW could only supply water to all residents 2 hours a day.

    With Australia’s population increasing by the size of Canberra every year there is not enough water to go around already. When it runs out expect people to be kicking down your front gate to get their share.

    Maya123 Maya123 9:13 pm 22 Jun 19

    What front gate 🙂

    A quote from Rainwater tanks
    Guidelines for residential properties in Canberra

    “Why install a rainwater tank?
    Rainwater tanks can make an important contribution towards reducing the
    demand our homes make on dam storages. Rainwater tanks can also help slow
    the flow of stormwater from our urban environment into local creeks and rivers.”

    This backs up my points.

    https://www.planning.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/890779/Rainwater_tanks.pdf

    I think from memory I needed to have my tank connected to the house (toilets and washing machine) to get the rebate. So, as most people would have liked the rebate, I imagine a lot of tanks are connected to the house and the water is being used; not “just sits there”. But looking at a tank beside a house it would not be possible to see if the water is being used or not. So if someone, such as yourself thinks the water “just sits there” (your words), how can you know that? Tanks don’t have clear sides, and you can’t see the water.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:27 am 23 Jun 19

    “Rainwater tanks can also help slow the flow of stormwater from our urban environment into local creeks and rivers.”

    That confirms my point and the situation now whereby they have stopped the flow of water from our “urban environment” during one of the worst droughts for some time.

    Maya123 Maya123 1:16 pm 23 Jun 19

    LOL, I predicted you would twist that environmental benefit to suit your agenda, but I didn’t want to delete that line and have you twist that to suit your agenda.

    You must hate concrete drains being changed to wetlands. That slows the water. Which can mean that in times of drought there is still water there, feeding the surrounds, rather than none, as happens with concrete drains and pipes when it all rushes away quickly.

    If I didn’t use the water in my tank I would be taking more water from the dam. The less water taken from the dam, the more water there will be available to release from the dam. If enough people had tanks, it might also delay or even eliminate the expense of building another dam. Tank water used in the house goes down the drain, the same as water taken from a dam, so no difference. Tank water used in the garden, is not water being taken from the dam. Having tank water to use on the garden is more akin to natural water cycles, which without urban development would naturally have fallen on the ground, and fed down to the water table. Water collected off roofs and concrete surfaces and pipped away (as you are suggesting) deprives the local water table. Even water that stayed on the surface in the past did not rush away to the streams. It was slowed by a system of wetlands and trickle fed its way to the streams. Maybe in extreme rain conditions the water ran directly into the streams, but these are rarer events. (In those situations the rainwater tank overflows too.)

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 12:17 am 24 Jun 19

    “Lets twist again, like we did last summer…..”
    (Chubby Checker circa 1958)

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