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Community River Health Monitoring Program - Report Card

Posted 19 April 2010 by (Hurstville News)

These first results indicate that the overall environmental health of the Georges River is fair and that large areas of the catchment are in reasonably good condition. The report card verifies that the river system has been affected by urban and industrial development. The high degree of urbanisation in the mid and lower catchments has led to a loss of riparian and estuarine vegetation and deterioration in water quality and macroinvertebrate diversity. In the upper catchment the protection of large areas of vegetation has resulted in mostly healthy waterways however there is evidence of some negative impacts to water quality, possibly due to industrial discharge and urban runoff.

The monitoring program is being conducted by the Georges River Combined Councils’ Committee (GRCCC) and has been funded through the Community Coastcare element of the Australian Government’s Caring for Our Country initiative. This project is one of a suite of environmental initiatives by councils, the GRCCC, the Sydney Metropolitan Catchment Management Authority (SMCMA) and the Australian Government that will progressively reverse some of the degradation that has occurred in the catchment.

The GRCCC is playing a leading role in bringing partners together; councils, government agencies and the community to improve the health of the whole of the Georges River. A greater understanding of the health of the catchment will assist the GRCCC to identify and target areas where further investigation is required.

Mayor of Hurstville, Cr Philip Sansom said “as a GRCCC Councillor and Chair of SMCMA I am delighted to see councils and the SMCMA collaborating on such an important project which I believe is the first of its kind in NSW.”

Over 200 community volunteers, led by science professionals, were involved in collecting data at over 40 sites throughout the Georges River catchment. Three river health indicators; water quality, vegetation and macroinvertebrates were monitored and the combination of analysed results has provided an understanding of the overall health of the river.

Dr Ian Wright, University of Western Sydney, said "the GRCCC study of the Georges River catchment waterways is a very powerful and unusual response to collective local government and resident concern about the quality of Georges River waterways. It breaks a long tradition of water quality and stream ecology studies that are short in duration and are based on political boundaries, rather than landscape boundaries.”

“Long-term studies of such catchment areas produce valuable information on the health of catchment waterways.”

The next round of monitoring will be conducted between the 17 April – 16 May. The data generated will provide comparative information for the second Georges River Health Report Card due out in August. For a copy of the Report Card visit www.georgesriver.org.au

Media Q&A Community River Health Monitoring Program - Report Card Spring 2009

Key messages:

  • Large areas of the catchment are in good condition.
  • The community is very supportive and willing to be involved in the program.
  • Some environmental management options undertaken within the catchment have proven to be effective.
  • GRCCC is playing a leading role in bringing partners including local councils, the community and government agencies together to improve the river as a whole on a regional scale.
  • The report card has been prepared using data from a two-year monitoring program being conducted by the Georges River Combined Councils’ Committee (GRCCC) and funded through the Community Coastcare element of the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country initiative.
  • The results in the Lower Georges River are typical for an area with a high degree of urbanisation and where estuarine and riparian vegetation have been cleared as a result.

Who is the GRCCC?

The Georges River Combined Councils Committee Inc (GRCCC), represents local government in the Georges River Catchment of NSW. Member councils include Rockdale City, Sutherland Shire, Kogarah City, Hurstville City, Bankstown City, Liverpool City, Fairfield City, Campelltown City and Wollondilly Shire councils. It is an incorporated association of nine local government councils working in partnership with state and federal government agencies and community representatives within the Georges River catchment. The GRCCC was formed in 1979 and its mission is to advocate for the protection, conservation and enhancement of the health of the Georges River, by developing programs and partnerships, and by lobbying government organisations and other stakeholders.

What are the main threats impacting the health of the river?

Urban runoff, loss of vegetation and industrial discharge.

A high degree of urbanisation results in less vegetation and more impervious surfaces (concrete, bitumen etc) increasing urban runoff which carries a high level of nutrients, pollutants and rubbish into the river system.

What does the Report Card show?

A catchment scale ‘snap-shot’ of three river health indicators: water quality, vegetation and macroinvertebrates.

What is the Georges River catchment?

The whole area of land which drains into the Georges River. The Georges River starts near Appin, approximately 60km south-west of Sydney, and then flows north towards Liverpool, and then east into Botany Bay. The catchment covers an area of approximately 960km2 and, with over 1 million people living within it and is one of the most highly urbanised catchments in Australia.

Why were macroinvertebrates used?

They are an important part of the ecosystem, they break down organic material in the water recycling essential elements back into the system and they are an important food source to other animals: fish, birds, frogs, platypus and lizards. Macroinvertebrates have relatively long life cycles and are sensitive to changes in the ecosystem, therefore acting as indicators of the history of the water quality in a particular area.

Who collected the information?

Over 200 community volunteers, led by partner council staff, agency staff and science professionals.

Why do we need a ‘snapshot’ of river health?

This ‘snapshot’ provides a reference point from which a greater understanding of the catchment can be gained. This will further help the GRCCC member councils identify areas where spending they can make the most efficient investments in conservation and environmental restoration.

Do these results mean the river is safe for swimming?

This study was designed to give an indication of ecosystem health, therefore the sampling that was undertaken measured parameters specific to gauging ecosystem health rather than those relevant to recreational usage.

What ‘further investigation’ will be undertaken?

The data collected provides baseline information. Future monitoring will allow comparisons and the determination of trends.

Where to from here?

Monitoring will occur twice a year over two years and four Report Cards will be produced. As more data is collected we will be able to compare results and develop a better understanding of the catchment.

Contacts:
Media and Communications: Jessica Grantley - 0403 051 604
Technical Advice: Carl Tippler - 0429 553 503