Waterway health programs

Brisbane City Council is working to improve the health of our waterways through several programs. These programs include planting water smart street trees, water quality monitoring, natural channel design, creek rehabilitation and more. 

Water quality monitoring

Council monitors water quality at 11 sites in the Brisbane River and sections of Moreton Bay with high rates of recreational use. Testing occurs fortnightly during the summer season. Council is also undertaking further studies in Brisbane waterways to further determine the causes of fluctuating microbial contamination.

Find out more about Council's regular water quality monitoring and read the frequently asked questions.

Creek filtration systems

Council invested $2 million between 2013-16 installing creek filtration systems in catchments to reduce pollutants entering waterways. Creek filtration systems consist of rocks and vegetation placed at the edge of creeks. They remove pollutants from stormwater before it flows into the waterway.

Council already had more than 200 systems across the city similar to these. However, new technology used in this trial was based on knowledge gained from national research and learnings from existing systems.

Council installed two systems each in Norman Creek, Oxley Creek and Kedron Brook catchments.

Water Sensitive Urban Design

Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) is Council's watersmart approach to planning and design of urban environments. It supports healthy ecosystems through smart management of water. 

Find out more information on WSUD.

Water smart trees

Council planted more than 100 'water smart street trees' in highly urbanised catchments between 2014-18. Council and SEQ catchments partially funded the project through grant funding from the Australian Government.

Water smart trees were planted using WSUD principles. Stormwater diverts through a garden bed irrigating the tree, filtering pollutants from the stormwater system. This system improves the health of our creeks. Council plants groups of trees along chosen busy streets. This has a greater impact to reduce pollutants, increase shade and improve streetscape amenity.

The trial was delivered in conjunction with Council’s Boulevards and Shadeways program. By incorporating water smart elements into the street tree pit design, Council hoped to:

  • improve tree survival
  • support quicker growth, and
  • reduce maintenance costs. 

Council is exploring opportunities to add water smart street trees as part of other Council programs. 

Waterway Health Rehabilitation program

The Waterway Health Rehabilitation program is one of Council’s initiatives to improve waterway health. This is through a combination of creek rehabilitation, natural channel design and water sensitive urban design projects in local waterways.

Local waterways provide many benefits to Brisbane communities by:

  • draining stormwater from suburban areas
  • serving as wildlife corridors through the city
  • providing habitat for aquatic wildlife
  • providing water quality benefits for Brisbane River and Moreton Bay
  • providing opportunities for the community to engage in local wildlife experiences
  • quiet places of reflection and scenic amenity, and
  • helping to identify Brisbane as a clean and green city.

Each year Council dedicates resources to increase Brisbane's liveability by enhancing and rehabilitating local waterways at strategic sites. Council promotes and prioritises sites for construction. They base this on completed works providing high quality habitat and water quality outcomes, whilst maximising benefits to local communities. The program has been in place for 16 years and delivered a number projects.

Natural channel design (NCD)

Council uses natural channel design for a variety of reasons across Brisbane, including:

  • when land developed for urban use changes the paths of open, grassed overland flow
  • helping determine minimum corridor widths during planning
  • flood mitigation such as creek diversions, channel widening or changes to vegetation cover
  • rehabilitation of floodways and drainage channels.

An example of natural channel design is at Bowman Park, Bardon (corner of Bowman Parade and Simpson Road (Cecil Road in between roads)).

Ecosystem Health Monitoring program

Healthy Land and Water manage the Ecosystem Health Monitoring program (EHMP) on behalf of Council and it's partners. Healthy Land and Water is a not-for-profit, non-government organisation. They work collaboratively to protect and improve our waterways for future generations to enjoy.

Find out more information from the Healthy Land and Water website.

Cabbage Tree Creek report

During 2012, Council and Urban Utilities commissioned a study to investigate bacteria in lower Cabbage Tree Creek.

Download and read the 10 recommendations provided:

A copy of the full report is available from:

Last updated:28 November 2019