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Docklands waterways are beautiful – on the inside

29 Aug 2011

Docklands waterways are beautiful – on the inside Image

By Yasemin Pelevan

Water is definitely one of the most important elements of Docklands. And while the surface looks dirty, the deeper water of Victoria Harbour is extremely clear.

Fresh water and salt water mix together in Victoria Harbour, with the dirtier river water sitting on top, giving a bad impression.

But divers and fishermen will tell you that not far below the surface, the salt water is clean and teeming with fish.

Docklands waterways are home to 19 species of edible fish. Fast West Diver Services diver, Grant, was working under the water in Docklands last month.

When Docklands News caught up with him, he described Victoria Harbour as a fisherman’s paradise.

“There are lots of fish down there. You would be laughing if you are a fisherman,” he said.

Grant said Victoria Harbour was quite clean despite how it looked.

“It’s just the water on the surface that makes it look dirty. It’s quite clean underneath the surface,” he said.

In July, RMIT’s Urban Realities competition winners “Dirtybuoys” based its project on the water quality of the harbour. The team compared the water quality at different levels by using large containers and sandwich bags to show the contrast. The model showed clean and clear water at deeper levels.

Surrounded by waterways, which include Victoria Harbour and the Yarra River, water is the front and backyards for Docklanders. The 7km waterfront is its most striking feature.

Recent studies and observations prove the water is much cleaner than people think.

As part of EPA Victoria’s “Yarra Watch” program, 12 sites along the river, including a site in Docklands, are tested every week. A sample from each site is used to measure the quality of the water.

Melbourne Water is in charge of monitoring the quality of water from Flinders Wharf in Docklands, upstream from Charles Grimes Bridge, to ensure it is suitable for recreational activities and marine life.

Nicolas McGay from Melbourne Water says regular water monitoring is very important.

“Water monitoring is very important as it lets us know the health of the animals and plants living in the water,” he said.

An E. coli geometric mean is calculated based on the last five samples of each site. E. coli is the “indicator bacteria” used to assess the water quality of the river. It indicates the presence of other pathogens (disease causing) micro-organisms that pose a risk to humans and marine life.

“Testing over a longer period of time gives us a good snap-shot of water quality levels by using a mean reading average,” Mr McGay said.

Docklands and other parts of the lower Yarra like Abbotsford, South Yarra and Southgate sit in the “medium water quality” range.  The E. coli geometric mean in these areas is between 201-1000 organisms per 100ml. Any lower indicates high water quality and anything higher indicates low water quality.

The Docklands site frequently tests at a medium level but it also has the tendency to improve to a high water quality level.

“There is always going to be issues for recreation,” Mr McGay said.

Water quality is not something that can be predicted. The quality levels fluctuate and depend on environmental factors such as weather.

History shows the water quality in the Yarra – especially in the lower reaches such as in Docklands – deteriorates after heavy rain, due to storm water from drains and streams entering the river.

“Storm water is the number one threat to river health,” Mr McGay said.

Storm water pollution includes “hard dirt” and pollutants such as chemicals and litter.

Mr McGay said that as the population of Melbourne increases so too would the harsh effects of storm water pollution.

Melbourne Water is working with the Docklands authorities to accommodate monitoring regimes; educate the public; raise public awareness of water issues and provide water catchments.

Melbourne Water has two projects to help clean up Melbourne’s waterways. The first is a wetlands project, which focuses on treating stormwater run-off and the second is about water-sensitive urban design, which is a water-cycle management program.

Melbourne Water is working with councils on the wetlands project which involves establishing rain gardens. Rain gardens are small gardens that filter rain water. A rain garden will help prevent pollutants and even litter from entering the waterways.

“Melbourne City Council are the leaders of rain gardens; they have built them in certain areas. Rain gardens collect nasty things like chemicals and little bits of litter too,” Mr McGay said.

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  • Mehmet at 10:58am on 01/09/11

    Wow I didn't know the water there was in such good shape. I will definitely start fishing there when I have some time. Hopefully the proposed projects will improve the water quality even more!

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