Revitalising Geographe Waterways

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The Revitalising Geographe Waterways program is a successful example of stewardship. During the year, we worked closely with partners and the local community to increase community input and knowledge, and worked with farmers to improve dairy effluent management, manage fertiliser run-off, protect waterways and improve water quality in the catchment.

This collaborative approach has accelerated water quality improvements in the Geographe catchment and restored community confidence in the government’s management of the waterways.

The award-winning waterways program monitors the Vasse-Wonnerup wetlands and priority waterways to identify key ecosystem features and threats. This helps us target our actions and resources to protect and improve waterway health and water quality. The $15 million program was recognised in October 2018 with a state Australian Water Association Award for program innovation.

The wetlands regularly support peak numbers of 25 000–35 000 waterbirds in most years and provide the most significant regular breeding habitat for black swans in the state.

In April 2019, the government announced the program would be extended for a fifth year to ensure water quality improvements and nutrient reductions in the Geographe catchment could continue under the oversight of the Interagency Vasse Taskforce, chaired by Dr Sally Talbot MLC. More than 20 organisations, including government agencies, universities, and catchment and industry groups have been involved with the delivery of the program, ensuring whole-of-community commitment to tackling the challenges and complexity of water quality in the catchment.

We are making it easier for stakeholders to understand the waterways and improve their decision-making through:

  • hydrological models developed for specific waterways, including Toby Inlet and Vasse Estuary, resulting in improved water quality and waterway health
  • a major ecological study on the Vasse-Wonnerup wetlands, greatly increasing our understanding of this important link between water quality and the ecology of the Ramsar-listed wetlands
  • river health assessments, highlighting the importance of protecting waterways for their ecological and social benefits.

These findings have been shared with project partners and the local community at science updates that continue to be well received and attended.

  • On-ground works in the catchment have continued strengthening partnerships with farmers and industry groups.
  • Modelling predicts that improved fertiliser management in this catchment since 2015 has resulted in a reduction of nearly 2000 kg per year of phosphorous entering the Vasse-Wonnerup wetlands and Geographe Bay.
  • Over 70 farmers have been involved in the program since 2016 contributing to improved farming practices (fencing, revegetation, soil testing, and better management of fertiliser and dairy effluent).
  • Over 40 km of fencing and 20 hectares of revegetation (tuarts, peppermint, rushes and sedges) have been completed over the past three years, protecting and improving riparian vegetation and reducing nutrient run-off from agricultural land.
  • More than 300 community members attended gardening workshops to learn how to create beautiful gardens while protecting the waterways.

Our partnership with the urban community through the GeoCatch Bay OK project has also been strengthened through a major project with the City of Busselton and the Water Corporation to upgrade the Vasse diversion drain and install rain gardens in priority sites.

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