Excellence in Master or Strategic Planning (Winner)

Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate & ACT and Australian Government
ACT Healthy Waterways: Delivering City-Wide Stormwater Quality Improvement

ACT Healthy Waterways is investing $93.5m over five years to improve long term water quality in the ACT and Murrumbidgee River System.  The project will reduce the amount of phosphorous, nitrogen and total suspended sediment entering ACT’s lakes and waterways which, in turn, have a significant impact on the Murrumbidgee River and broader iconic Murray-Darling Basin.

The first phase of the ACT Healthy Waterways project involved comprehensive investigations into water quality dynamics at a catchment level, identification and investigation of potential water management options as well as research into community expectations around ACT waterways and what the community understandings about the cause and options to deal with stormwater pollution. As a result a wide range of potential water management options were identified and developed.

Figure 1 represents the assessment approach taken in delivery of Phase 1. The results of an initial coarse filter assessment of a large number (approximately 500) potential sites for stormwater treatment infrastructure were used to identify appropriate treatment locations, which were then presented to the community to seek their views on existing values of sites along with the likely feasibility and desirability of each option in terms of pollutant reduction.

This upfront consultation and engagement within and between key stakeholders (including across government, governance bodies [project advisory groups – community and technical], expert panels and broader community provided information on opportunities, constraints and informed option analysis.  This approach resulted in:

  • Refinement of treatment locations and the development of option concept designs for each site
  • An improved water quality monitoring framework for the ACT
  • A legacy package of works – infrastructure and broader management – that could be implemented in the longer term.

A social expectations research study and survey, with over 4500 participants, was also undertaken to explore attitudes, values and behaviour of ACT residents and NSW Local Government Areas in the project area regarding their use of waterways, lakes and wetlands and factors affecting water quality.  The outcomes are informing the development of a community awareness (education) and behavioural program (being delivered as part of Phase 2) to improve the community’s understanding and practices.

Following the consultation and engagement process, a prioritised list of 188 water quality improvement options had concept designs across the potential sites costed and a range of other information (including the survey outcomes) were used as part of a Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA – incorporating environmental, economic and social factors) to prioritise options and focus efforts on those with the highest potential benefits. An expert panel was established to assist with the MCA process.  The higher priority options identified in the MCA process were then assessed as part of a detailed Benefit Cost Analysis (BCA).

There has been strong support from project stakeholders including the broader community for the assessment approach and the range of intervention options identified within the catchments.

This award application relates to the Phase 1 master planning component of the program.