26 September 2023

ACT’s water catchments a new Office

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An Office of Water is to be established in the ACT to coordinate and lead water policy development and water management in the Territory.

Highlighted in the Budget this week and recommended by the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment, Sophie Lewis in her State of the Lakes and Waterways in the ACT, the new Office follows years of concern following her 2012 investigation into the state of Lake Burley Griffin.

“Indeed, not all 2012 recommendations have yet been fully addressed,” Dr Lewis said.

“The recent summers of 2020–21 and 2021-22 were characterised by frequent reports of blue-green algal outbreaks in Lake Tuggeranong and Lake Burley Griffin, and consequent lake closures,” she said.

“These outbreaks reveal complex, significant and enduring issues in the urban lakes and waters of the ACT.”

Dr Lewis said her investigation area covered Lake Burley Griffin, Lake Ginninderra, Lake Tuggeranong and the waterways that flow through the urban area and into the Murrumbidgee River, including urban ponds and wetlands, the Molonglo River and tributaries.

“There is no simple ‘fix’ to improve the state of Canberra’s lakes and waterways. Our urban lakes and ponds perform multiple — and sometimes competing — social, environmental, infrastructure and economic roles,” she said.

“The investigation finds a number of weaknesses in the planning, design, delivery and operation of infrastructure, and significant issues in the management of land development in Canberra that directly impact our waterways.”

She said her 12 recommendations in the report focused on catchment-scale management and planning to address the current and emerging pressures on urban lakes and waterways.

Along with the recommendation to establish an ACT Office of Water, Dr Lewis recommended the Territory revisit water-related recommendations made in previous reports, fund a program for more continuous monitoring of water quality across Canberra, and publish all information on water quality on one website so that accurate data was easy to find.

Her 424-page Report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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