The Swan River in front of Perth's city skyline.

The Swan River in front of Perth's city skyline.

Restoring near-city catchments

Linking hydrology and ecology research to support the restoration of healthy waterways and water ecosystems in near-city catchments around Australia.

  • 6 December 2007 | Updated 14 October 2011

Declining near-city catchment waterways and ecosystems

In Australia, many of our cities are founded on coastal plains along the banks of major rivers.

These coastal environments provide many recreational activities such as fishing, boating, and swimming, while nearby, inland catchment areas supply agricultural products and much of our drinking water.

However, the water and land environments around many of our coastal cities are becoming increasingly degraded due to changes in land-use and flow regimes.

The rapidly growing populations in coastal cities such as Brisbane, Queensland, and Perth, Western Australia, and the frequent droughts are also increasing the stress placed on these ecosystems.

In order to deal with these challenges local governments and natural resource agencies are developing rehabilitation plans which focus on on-ground actions.

These plans aim to restore some of the ecosystem functions that have been lost from these near-city catchments.

Science to support restoration activities

This project will provide the science which guides the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of restoration activities in near-city catchments.

The design of activities will be based upon best available knowledge and be undertaken in collaboration with local catchment authorities.

The trial and evaluation phase will monitor the performance of the implemented activities in meeting objectives set out for each of the ecosystem functions.

Restoration activities will initially be undertaken within key experimental catchments, including:

  • the catchments surrounding Brisbane and draining to Moreton Bay
  • the catchments of the Swan-Canning Rivers adjacent to Perth
  • the catchments of the Mount Lofty ranges above Adelaide, South Australia.

Each of these near-city catchments has a blend of water and related land degradation issues that are of concern to water supplies, ecosystem health and the city’s other downstream uses.


The activities being trialled will seek to restore the following ecohydrologic functions to these catchments: 

Rapidly growing populations a wide diversity of land uses and the impact of a warming climate are putting increased pressure on waterways and ecosystems within near-city catchments.
  • the filtering of nutrients, organic carbon and sediment from the stream and groundwater
  • the stability of stream channels
  • the establishment of native flora within the catchments to exclude invasive weeds and provide other on-farm ecosystem services.

Specifically it will:

  • quantify the historical and contemporary flux of sediment and organic matter from high-erosion catchments
  • examine the role of wetland riparian vegetation in:
    • filtering sediment and nutrient movement 
    • providing ecosystem services such as biodiversity conservation, pest control and pollination
  • test a range of linked restoration methods to:
    • ‘slow’ and stabilize sediment movement
    • prevent and mitigate aquatic and riparian plant invasions
    • capture pollination and pest control services.

The major outcome of this project will be established methods to efficiently and effectively manage the restoration and protection of the waterways and ecosystems in near-city catchments.


The success of this project relies on close collaboration with local catchment management authorities, as well as a number of key partners, including:

  • South East Queensland Healthy Waterways Partnership
  • Horticulture Australia
  • Land and Water Australia
  • Western Australian Department of Water (Aquatic Science Branch)
  • Swan River Trust Healthy Rivers.

Read more about the projects in the Healthy Water Ecosystems Theme