ACT Healthy Waterways Project wins innovation award

The ACT Healthy Waterways Project was recognised for innovation at the recent ACT Water Awards.

The project, which represents a total investment of $93.5 million, is considered 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 involving scientific experts and the community to select the sites that would deliver the best water quality outcomes and social benefits.

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

Consultation and collaboration have been very important and this is 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, all parties were involved in the development of the project.

A whole-of-catchment approach was adopted when considering sites and treatment options. The project team 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.

The processes enabled the application of weighted criteria to the initial list of 500 potential sites and identification 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 the Balance’, announced in 2014.