Major ACT water project wins innovation award

Released 09/12/2016

ACT Healthy Waterways, a joint ACT and Australian Government project to improve water quality in the ACT and downstream in the Murrumbidgee River System was recognised last night at the ACT Water Association Awards.

ACT Healthy Waterways represents a total investment of $93.5 million in water quality infrastructure and improved water management across the ACT region to reduce the level of nutrients and sediment entering lakes and waterways.

The project is considered to be a once in a generation opportunity to significantly improve water quality in the ACT’s lakes, especially Lake Burley Griffin and Lake Tuggeranong, as well as more broadly in the Molonglo and Murrumbidgee Rivers and the Murray-Darling Basin.

The award recognised the innovative and collaborative approach taken to work with scientific experts and the community to select the sites that would deliver the best water quality outcomes and social benefits, while minimising the environmental impact.  

The award - one of four presented on the night - was accepted by Dorte Ekelund, Director-General of the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate.

“The project team took a very holistic approach from the beginning. We developed a more rigorous water quality monitoring regime, investigated the effectiveness of existing water infrastructure and surveyed the community about social values and expectations around water,” said Ms Ekelund.

“From the outset, consultation and collaboration were very important and that was reflected in the creation of the project advisory groups which included academics, asset managers and technical experts as well as representatives from the community. In this way, we brought all parties into the decision making process.

“A whole-of-catchment approach was adopted when considering sites and treatment options. This looked past just the price of construction to the wider environmental and social values, as well as the financial implications of each asset over its whole lifecycle,” said Ms Ekelund.

The processes enabled the team to apply weighted criteria to the initial list of 500 potential sites and identify the 36 that would move forward into final design. The same process can now be applied to any catchment scale evaluation of water quality treatment options in the ACT beyond this project and in similar catchments across the Murray-Darling Basin.

The project plays an important role in achieving Murray-Darling Basin water quality targets set out in the ACT’s 30-year Water Strategy ‘Striking a Balance’, announced in 2014. The first group of 13 projects will be submitted for development approval before Christmas, with construction due to start on approved projects in mid-2017.

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