Latest update:

A number of plans for project sites have been submitted to the planning and land authority for approval. For more information, and to provide comment on these Development Applications visit: ACT Healthy Waterways Sites and Progress

Why we need to upgrade our waterways

Canberra’s lakes and waterways are under increasing pressure, largely due to urban development, past land and water management regimes, climate change, and a general lack of awareness about the kinds of activities that affect water quality.

Stormwater pollution affects water quality, posing risks to public health and aquatic life. It also threatens the many social, economic and environmental benefits our lakes and waterways generate.

Our stormwater also causes problems beyond our borders. It has an impact on water quality downstream in the Murrumbidgee River system and, more broadly, in the Murray–Darling Basin.

ACT Healthy Waterways

ACT Healthy Waterways is a joint initiative of the Australian and ACT governments to protect and improve long-term water quality in the ACT and the Murrumbidgee River system. The project will reduce the level of nutrients and sediment entering our lakes and waterways that, in turn, have a significant impact on Australia’s iconic Murray-Darling Basin.

More than $80 million will be invested in up to 25 priority projects, as well as programs to raise awareness about water quality issues and how residents, businesses and visitors can help look after our waterways.

The project plays an important role in achieving targets set out in the ACT’s Water Strategy, announced in 2014. The strategy sets out how the ACT Government will manage the Territory’s water resources over the next 30 years.

There are up to 25 priority projects

Up to 25 projects have been selected across the six priority catchments of:

  1. The established catchment of Lake Tuggeranong
  2. The established catchment of Yarralumla Creek
  3. The developing catchment of Upper Molonglo
  4. The developing catchment of Lower Molonglo
  5. The developing catchment of West Belconnen
  6. The industrialised Fyshwick catchment.

A carefully balanced combination of factors were considered in selecting the projects, underpinned by thorough scientific research and consultation with technical experts, government and the broader community. The factors considered included:

  • The predicted water quality outcomes each option would generate
  • The cost of both building and maintaining infrastructure over its lifetime
  • Potential environmental impacts and site-specific practical constraints
  • Broader economic costs and benefits, social values and community preferences.

Cross-border sites

Two of the 25 priority projects are located in the Upper Molonglo catchment, across the NSW border in the Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council (QPRC). They include twin rain gardens in Karabar and a new wetland on the Molonglo River in Queanbeyan.

The project team continues to meet with representatives of the QPRC whose guidance, support and endorsement will be critical in understanding and managing technical specifications and approval processes at a council and state government level.

The below map shows the six priority catchment areas, the proposed location of priority projects and the proposed types of new water infrastructure (i.e. wetland, pond, rain garden).

Map of ACT water catchment map with locations of water project

Community input is vital

Input from the community has played an important role in ACT Healthy Waterways since the project commenced two years ago.

The design team initially identified over 500 potential sites across six priority catchments. That list was evaluated by a panel (including technical experts and community representatives) and the sites prioritised according to each asset’s potential to improve water quality and increase amenity, as well as project cost and feasibility.

As a result, the list was reduced to 188 and the design team developed concept plans for each project ahead of the first round of community consultations in July 2015. Comments were received from a range of different sources, including experts in the field, community groups and people who attended the drop-in sessions (open houses). The feedback informed the next step in the process: the development of preliminary plans for up to 25 priority projects (and some reserve projects).

At drop-in sessions during September 2016, visitors could view the preliminary plans, talk with the design team and provide feedback. The plans were also available online and the community invited to comment. Although the consultation period is now closed, you can still view the preliminary plans on this site (see catchment areas above).

Residents who live near each of the projects were notified of the September drop-in sessions and the Your Say website via a letterbox drop. Advertising, social media, general news media, email updates and on-site signs also helped spread the word.

More than 3000 people either attended one of the six drop-in session or visited the ACT Government’s YourSay website to view the plans released last year. We know from feedback received the infrastructure projects are well supported. Canberrans love our lakes and rivers and have a keen interest in improving water quality. More information on feedback received is available in the ACT Healthy Waterways Consultation Report.

Another chance to comment

With the design phase now complete, work is underway to prepare plans for development approval. This process provides another opportunity for the community to comment on the proposed new water infrastructure projects. For more details on the status of each project, including development applications that are currently notified, visit ACT Healthy Waterways.

Out in the community

The project’s success relies heavily on the support of the community. During phase one we worked closely with the technical and community project advisory groups who were instrumental in site evaluation and selection.

The project team has been presenting at a number of community meetings, including the Woodland and Wetland Trust, the Catchment and Landcare Association, Queanbeyan Landcare, Woden Valley Community Council and the Tuggeranong Community Council. These groups are not only extremely interested in the project but may be impacted during construction, so their input and feedback is of great value to the project. The response to date has been overwhelmingly positive.

If your group has an interest in ACT Healthy Waterways (Basin Project) and would like one of our team to present at your next meeting, please email

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What happens next?

Following community consultation, feedback has been assessed and used by the design team to develop detailed plans for each site.

A number of plans for project sites have been submitted to the planning and land authority for approval. For more information, and to provide comment on these Development Applications visit: ACT Healthy Waterways Sites and Progress

We expect construction to begin in the second half of 2017, with completion scheduled for mid-2019. The order in which projects unfold will be determined once the approvals and procurement phases are complete. The particular requirements of each site will be taken into account, along with seasonal and location constraints. We will also look for opportunities to generate efficiencies by combining work on various projects.

What about maintenance?

The ACT Government will take responsibility for the ongoing operation and maintenance of assets constructed as part of the ACT Healthy Waterways project. This will include regular reporting to the Australian Government.