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Yarra Catchment

Bay and Catchments

Water quality index
Land Use




Water Quality Index

Very Good




Very Poor

Citizen Science Data

Citizen Science monitoring site

See the ‘Yarra Catchment’ page for a detailed description of the catchment.

Report Card for July 2012 – June 2013

The Report Card for the Yarra catchment has generated water quality index scores for the period July 2012 to June 2013. These scores are generated using a combination of standard indicators: nutrients, water clarity (turbidity), dissolved oxygen, salinity (conductivity), pH and metals.

These are sampled monthly across 48 sites as part of catchment monitoring programs.

The following section ‘Changes over time’ compares these annual index scores and indicators with the catchment's scores from 2000.

Results can also be compared to other catchments in the section below ‘Compared to other catchments’.

Site-specific details about indicators can be found via the site lists or can be accessed directly from the map.

Summary Table: The table below shows area-weighted distribution of site scores based on subcatchments. Scores are averaged in subcatchments with multiple sites. See the scoring method for more information.

Area Score

Very Good
Near-natural high quality waterways

Typically forested areas in the upper catchment


Meets Victorian water quality standards

Typically rural areas on the urban fringe in the mid-catchment


Some evidence of stress

Mostly the Yarra River in the mid-catchment


Under considerable stress

Mostly the Yarra River in the lower urbanised catchment


Very Poor
Under severe stress

Mostly small tributaries in the lower urbanised catchment

The routine monthly monitoring across 48 sites accounts for 100% of the catchment.

What does this mean?

Overall, in the Yarra catchment 52 per cent of the waterway monitoring sites achieved a ‘Fair&lrsquo; to ‘Very Good rating’.

Most of the waterway sites that rated as ‘Good’ drain catchments that are well forested and are close to their natural state. The O'Shannassy River monitoring site located within a closed catchment was the only site that scored ‘Very Good’.

As the catchment becomes more developed toward the city, water quality scores deteriorate as waterways are increasingly impacted by human activity. Consequently, 48 per cent of the middle and lower Yarra catchment received a ‘Poor’ or ‘Very Poor’ water quality rating. The mainstream Yarra River scored ‘Good’ near Warrandyte but deteriorated on it’s course downstream and was rated ‘Poor’ at Kew.

In the lower urban parts of the catchment, the low scores are generally a result of high nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, and low water clarity, which commonly originate in the runoff from houses, industrial and commercial areas and roads. Dissolved oxygen levels were also low at times in the urban area, particularly during the summer months when flows are low and water temperature is high.

Urban waterways tend to have high metal concentrations as often the whole catchment area is urbanised. Metals are commonly found in the stormwater runoff from roads and industrial areas. Gardiners Creek is an example of an urban site with regularly high metal levels where concentrations of copper and zinc frequently exceed guideline levels. Tyre rubber is a widespread source of zinc in urban areas where it is deposited on road surfaces and then washed into waterways.


The Report Card's water quality index is based on monthly sampling which can mean short-lived environmental and weather events that can impact water quality are not always captured. This section highlights events for the 2012-13 time period.

During 2012-13 there were four separate environmental flow releases down the Yarra River from Melbourne's water storages. This contributed to both improved water quality along the Yarra River and improved waterway habitat for plants and animals.

Melbourne Water also delivered the largest environmental flow release ever for the Yarra River in May 2013. The release aimed to improve fish populations and the quality of the water by flushing fine sediment and organic material from the river bed, thereby maintaining habitat for bugs and fish life and supporting native vegetation. For further information see the Melbourne Water media release.

Bar chart showing WQI and indicator scores for Yarra Catchment Bar chart showing WQI and indicator scores for Yarra Catchment

WarrandyteMelbournewater.jpg Warrandyte. Source: Melbourne Water

Changes over time

Generally, the Yarra catchment's water quality has improved significantly since the 1970s, and despite increased pressure from continued urbanisation and population growth it has demonstrated an overall improvement over the over the past 13 years.

This improvement is a positive measure in light of the many urban pressures the lower and middle Yarra catchments experience, which includes the landscape's growing urbanisation. Water quality has also generally improved since the drought broke in 2010.

The ‘Actions’ section below outlines projects and initiatives that will contribute toward addressing the issues outlined above.

Plot of WQI history for Yarra Catchment Plot of WQI history for Yarra Catchment


What's happened?

Driven by the key water quality issues identified for the region, major projects were implemented to improve waterway health in the Yarra catchment and included the following initiatives:

  • Dights Falls Fishway replacement at Abbotsford. The new fishway allows fish to swim past the weir, benefiting 11 species of native migratory fish and providing access to vast upstream reaches of the Yarra River and its tributaries.
  • Lower Yarra River weed control project. Weed control was conducted over 22 km along the lower Yarra River, which involved targeting the control of 75 different species of weeds and planting 18,000 local native plants.
  • Partnership projects with local councils to build wetlands, raingardens and swales to treat stormwater runoff and remove pollutants that would otherwise end up in waterways of the Yarra catchment.
  • Working in partnership with rural landholders in the Woori Yallock area to reduce the amount of sediment and nutrients entering waterways from agricultural land.
  • Melbourne Water planted 92 km of native vegetation, removed weeds from 573 km of waterways and removed 1230 cubic metres of litter and debris from waterways and retarding basins in the Yarra catchment.
  • The Riverkeepers Association launched their new patrol boat Yarra Riverkeeper in May 2013 with funding assistance from the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation. The patrol vessel ensures ongoing capacity to monitor the river's health and the activities affecting it, and also helps to engage the community and convey a message of river care.
  • EPA hotspot investigations of local businesses in the Campbellfield Industrial Park located near Merlynston/Merri Creek resulted in the issue of a number of remedial notices.
  • Ten councils were invited by the Victorian Government to apply for a share of $100,000 to deliver litter prevention and clean-up programs along the Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay as part of their Litter Hotspots program.
  • Provided almost $140,000 in grants to support community action to improve water quality in the Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay.
  • Announced round three of the Communities for Nature Grants Program, which focuses on projects to improve water quality in the Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay.

For more information about projects and works in the Yarra catchment in 2012-13, please see the Waterways Local Updates.

What's planned?

A number of priority areas and actions have been identified in the upper, middle and lower Yarra catchments to build on existing projects and initiatives. These include:

  • Continuing the delivery of environmental water entitlements in the Yarra River.
  • Supporting on-farm practices to identify ways to reduce agricultural runoff (including sediment and pollution) into waterways.
  • Continuing stormwater management in the lower catchment with a focus on litter management, water-sensitive urban design and stormwater mitigation in new developments.
  • Identifying key pollution hot spots for ecosystem and public health protection.
  • Continuing to fund research to investigate how the Yarra River and the Yarra estuary process nutrients such as nitrogen.
  • Working with councils and the community to protect and improve waterways through on-ground works and planning activities.

For more information on actions planned for the Yarra catchment to improve the health of rivers and creeks, please see the Healthy Waterways Strategy.

Compare to other Catchments

The following figures show a comparison of scores for each identified water quality indicator in the catchments and Port Phillip Bay.

Diagram of nutrient score history for catchments and bay

Diagram of oxygen score history for catchments and bay

Diagram of water clarity score history for catchments and bay

Diagram of salinity score history for catchments and bay

Diagram of score history for catchments and bay

Diagram of metals score history for catchments and bay

Program Partners

Department of Environment and Primary Industries Environmental Protection Agency Melbourne Water