GRCCC: Georges River Ecological Health Monitoring Program releases Catchment Report Card for 2015-2016

29/11/2016

A report card on the health of the Georges River for 2015-2016 has been released.

The report card provides a ‘snapshot’ of the ecological health of the Georges River catchment with grades given to both sub catchments and individual sites. The report card presents the findings of 12 months of data collection based on monitoring that has taken place at 34 freshwater sites across the Georges River catchment, 17 estuarine sites and 46km of the main channel of the Georges River Estuary up to Liverpool Weir, all of which feeds into Botany Bay.

The River Health Monitoring Program is coordinated by the Georges River Combined Councils’ Committee Inc. (GRCCC) and is funded by the GRCCC’s member councils. The GRCCC also works in close partnership with the Georges River Environmental Education Centre, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, the Australian Museum’s Streamwatch program and local communities in the delivery of the program.
 
“The River Health Program is a valuable regional scale monitoring program. The program uses scientists to collect data on a number of important ecological indicators across the Georges River catchment. This helps us understand the long-term health and condition of the Georges River estuary, the freshwater creeks and sub-catchment areas. Member councils now have 8 years of baseline data to identify areas within the river system that require further investigation. Councils are responding to the pressures placed by a highly urban environment on the river system by actively implementing a range of management actions and on ground works to improve the environmental health of our river.

Numerous community groups, volunteers, school children and Council technical staff are also engaged in field sampling to collect data. Through this engagement, the program helps to raise awareness of the value of the Georges River. I encourage all stakeholders to continue to work together to protect and improve the Georges River” said GRCCC Acting Chairperson, Sutherland Shire Councillor Peter Scaysbrook.  
 
The results of the 2015-16 Report Card indicate the overall ecological condition of the freshwater reaches across the Georges River was ‘Fair’ with a grade of C+  and this indicates a slight decline in ecological condition compared to the previous year. Large areas of the Georges River catchment, particularly in the upper reaches have intact native forest and remain in good to excellent ecological condition. This includes the Upper and Mid Georges River, O’Hares Creek, Woronora River and Mill Creek. However, in the middle to lower catchment areas, the Georges River is highly urbanised and is home to over one million people. Urban rain water running off into the river as well as soils and sediment combined with degraded and fragmented riparian vegetation corridors, negatively affects the ecology of the river. The result is that urban creeks, such as  Bunbury Curran, Cabramatta and Prospect Creeks and the Lower Georges River tributaries, had ‘Poor’ riparian vegetation, water quality and macroinvertebrate (water bugs) communities. For example, the diversity of water bugs was low and dominated by pollution tolerant species such as snails and worms. 
 
Estuary conditions in the Georges River were ‘Fair’ with a grade of C+ indicative of a decline in ecological condition over the past few years. The lower sections of the estuary are regularly flushed by tidal water movement, whereas the upper sections are more influenced by stormwater from highly urbanised catchments and were more susceptible to temporary algal blooms and increases in turbidity during the periodic high flows that occurred during large storms.

For a copy of the latest Report Card visit our website.  For more information on the program, please contact the GRCCC at info@georgesriver.org.au.

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