Managing our waterways
Why do we manage waterways?
Waterways are valuable assets that contribute economic, social and environmental benefits to Western Australia, but the values of our waterways are dependent on their physical condition and ecological health. Historically, land clearing, land management practices, and modifications to our waterways have resulted in flooding, erosion, poor water quality, loss of aquatic and riparian vegetation, loss of aquatic fauna, and algal blooms and fish kills (see threats to our waterways).
Waterways management aims to protect and manage waterways and their adjoining foreshores, so that their physical condition, ecological health and values are maintained or improved now and for future generations. Managing and protecting waterways costs much less than restoring degraded waterways. Reversing degradation takes considerable sustained effort and investment, and even then significant improvements in condition may not be seen for many years.
Our role in waterways management
Waterways management is a shared responsibility. It requires cooperative relationships between landowners, land managers, catchment groups, state government agencies, and local governments.
The Department of Water leads waterways management in Western Australia by coordinating cross-government efforts to protect and manage water resources, including rivers and estuaries.
The Water Agencies (Powers) Act 1984 provides the Minister for Water and Department of Water with the power to perform the general functions of conserving, protecting, assessing and managing water resources, which includes waterways.
Protection and management of waterways, other water dependent ecosystems, and the services they provide is embedded in the everyday water management business of our department.
Key processes for protecting and managing waterways:
Legislation, policies and guidelines
The Department advises on legislation and prepares policies and guidelines about waterway protection and management. We assist other state agencies to consider waterways in their policies and guidelines, when this is appropriate.
Water allocation planning and water licensing
The water requirements of waterways and other water dependent ecosystems are considered when decisions are made about how much water is available for use through the water allocation planning process.
Waterways are also managed and protected via water licenses to take surface water and permits for works that may disturb the bed and banks of waterways.
Land use planning and development
The Department provides advice about protecting waterways and managing the potential effects of land use and development on them.
Improving water quality
We manage water quality through water quality improvement plans. These plans are developed to improve current water quality in estuaries (and the rivers and streams in their catchments) and to prevent further deterioration.
Catchment models are developed to support water quality improvement plans. They quantify the sources of nutrients flowing into rivers based on land use in the catchment, and are used to predict the impact of management practices on nutrient loads.
Restoring our waterways
The Department assists with planning, implementing and evaluating waterway management activities in priority waterways. We give specialist technical expertise about engineering works for restoration and offer information, tools and resources to assist with assessing, planning, monitoring and restoring waterways. For further information see restoring our rivers, river restoration manual and water notes.
We also provide assistance to natural resource management groups to develop plans for waterway management and restoration, including river action plans, river recovery plans and waterway management plans or programmes.
The Department uses remediation activities to manage waterways. Oxygenation plants are used to manage low dissolved oxygen levels in estuaries. Soil amendment is used to treat high nutrient levels in subsoil drainage.
Managing urban waterways
The Department provides guidance on managing waterways in the urban environment including the development of living streams and other water sensitive urban design features.
Assessing waterway health
The Department uses information to underpin all of these management decisions. We assess water quality and waterway health to help us understand the current condition of waterways and the effectiveness of our management actions.
Further information: For queries about waterways, contact your nearest Department of Water regional office or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org