Where is the ACT’s cleanest water?

Scooping clean water from a waterway into a mugOn the eastern slopes of the Brindabella Ranges, about 1,420 metres above sea level, you’ll find a trickle of water. It’s the source of Gibraltar Creek, the cleanest waterway in the ACT.

Regularly monitored by Waterwatch volunteers, it is the only one of 94 stretches of waterway, known as ‘reaches’ to gain an ‘excellent’ ranking four years in a row.

So why is this particular stretch of waterway cleaner than all the others?

Firstly, it’s high up in the catchment, well away from urban development and farmland and the sediment, fertilisers and other pollutants that go with human habitation. It’s also surrounded by the Namadgi National Park and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve; natural, native forests with diverse, intact ground cover and an established canopy.

Waterwatch Facilitator, Woo O’Reilly, explained why all those things matter when talking about water quality.

“It’s all about the diversity. Established native forest provides all sorts of protection for the creek. It acts as a buffer from wind and sun and filters the water that runs off the landscape before it enters the waterway. The forest is also a great source of food for the aquatic bugs and invertebrates that are so important to the health of any waterway.”

She was quick to point out that it’s possible to create a healthier environment around creeks and rivers that aren’t surrounded by native forests.

“If you live on acreage or close to a creek, plant good, diverse ground cover on your property, along with some trees. They don’t have to be native but it’s important to avoid planting weed species The ACT Government’s new Plant Selector webtool can help people choose the right plants,” said O’Reilly.

More than 200 Waterwatch volunteers across the ACT region conducted 2,270 water quality, water bug and riparian assessment surveys over the last year, the results of which are published in the annual Catchment Health Indicator Program (CHIP) report.

The CHIP provides a score for 94 separate reaches. Five were deemed ‘excellent’, 45 were ‘good’, 42 were ‘fair’ and two received a ‘poor’ score.

Of course, Waterwatch volunteers can’t monitor every stretch of waterway in the ACT which means there are other streams just as healthy as Gibraltar Creek.

“They are likely to be high up in the upper catchment, well away from farmland and urban areas so, if you’re looking for clean water, head to the hills,” said O’Reilly.

Waterwatch receives much of its funding through the ACT Healthy Waterways project, a joint Australian and ACT government initiative, which is providing more than $2 million over five years. The program also receives funding through Icon Water.

Find out more about Waterwatch.