The Little Stringybark Creek Project

(2008 – current)

In urban environments, increased stormwater runoff, along with its polluted quality, leads to the degradation of waterways. Importantly, the change in catchment hydrology results in the loss of ecosystems services provided by these creeks. This project is a world-first attempt to protect and restore a stream (Little Stringybark Creek) through stormwater harvesting, integrated with stormwater filtration and infiltration techniques.  The primary aims of the project are to restore both hydrology and water quality to protect receiving aquatic ecosystems, while providing the community with a substantial, valuable alternative water resource.

The Little Stringybark Creek Project, which has been operating since 2008, is implementing new water saving and stormwater treatment initiatives within the 450 ha catchment of Little Stringybark Creek in outer eastern Melbourne. Works have and will continue to be conducted on a combination of private and public land, at a range of scales. For private land owners (both households and businesses), financial incentives and direct assistance (in design and plumbing advice) are offered to install rainwater tanks and other stormwater retention measures. For public land owners (local government, schools), staff are educated on the benefits of stormwater retention measures and financial incentives provided to support on-ground implementation. To facilitate these works and ensure communication of any lessons, the project has run a comprehensive engagement program, targeting residents of the catchment, the local government authority and the broader water/stormwater management industry.

At its conclusion, this project will result in substantial benefits, including: savings in potable water of around 51 ML/year (valued at $98,000 per year); restoration of natural flow regimes within the catchment (62 ML/year of stormwater retained with catchment, with increased dry-weather flows in the stream); increased community awareness of stream health and stormwater management and important lessons for governments on the use of novel market-based instruments (MBIs) for funding stormwater harvesting systems.  Most importantly, the project will result in tangible improvements in the health of Little Stringybark Creek and thus be a world-first demonstration of the ability of stormwater harvesting and retention to protect and restore urban waterways.

This project supports 4 postgraduate research projects, the first two at Monash University and the last two at the University of Melbourne: Matt Burns‘ PhD is studying the impacts of harvesting and WSUD on stormflow hydrology (link to PhD), whilst Perrine Hamel’s PhD will examine the potential to restore baseflows with such systems (link to PhD)Julia White’s PhD is looking at the relative importance of local-scale and catchment-scale impacts on stream ecosystems (link to PhD), whilst Tony Lovell is examining what factors control the distribution of the riverine shrimp Paratya australiensis (Kemp, 1917) in Melbourne’s streams (link to PhD).

Visit the official website for the Little Stringybark Creek project for more information: www.urbanstreams.unimelb.edu.au

Research Team:
Prof Tim Fletcher, Assoc Prof Chris Walsh (The University of Melbourne), Darren Bos (The University of Melbourne), Dr Rhiannon Birch (The University of Melbourne), Mr Matt Burns, Ms Perrine Hamel, Ms Julia White, Mr Tony Lovell, Mr Toby Prosser (Melbourne Water), Ms Sharyn RossRakesh (Melbourne Water) and Dr Veronika Nemes (Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment).

Associated PhDs:

Project Partners:
The project is coordinated through Monash University and The University of Melbourne. Project Partners include Melbourne Water, Yarra Ranges Council, Yarra Valley Water, the Department of Sustainability and Environment, and local contractors from the plumbing Industry. The project team is also collaborating with a ‘sister project’ in Cincinnati, Ohio, being run by the US EPA.

Publications (link)

Links:
Little Stringybark Creek project: www.urbanstreams.unimelb.edu.au