Water Sensitive Urban Design

Completed Project, Rivers, Urban

Litter, nutrients, and sediments entering the marine environment through the storm water system threaten the integrity and condition of existing native vegetation and habitats in the coastal urban landscape of the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac region.

People working on Little Mccreadys Creek.

Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) installations aim to rehabilitate, maintain and protect remaining coastal and riverine ecosystems, considering the challenges faced through ongoing development and competing interests.

Wetland installations

Little McCreadys Creek and Lagoon Creek were chosen as suitable sites for developing and showcasing best practice methods for improving stormwater quality, rehabilitating waterways, enhancing aquatic habitat, and improving the ecological corridor. Investigations informed each design and included a review of background information, a geomorphic assessment, flood modelling, landscape assessment, stormwater quality modelling, and consultation with community members and other stakeholders.

Both creeks were assessed as adjoining open space that had, in the past been substantially altered through agriculture and urbanisation. Each site retained many environmental values including native fauna, fish, frogs, and some native vegetation, however ecological surveys suggested poor water quality and lack of habitat was limiting species abundance and diversity. In both cases, the creeks and adjoining parklands are highly valued and regularly used by the community for passive and active recreation. Increasing urban development within each catchment will change the creek hydrology and sediment supply, however flood modelling shows that significant rehabilitation works can be undertaken without any adverse effects on private properties.

Moreover stormwater modelling demonstrated that introducing more riparian and wetland vegetation could make improvements in water quality. Rehabilitation of Little McCreadys Creek and Lagoons Creek have substantially improved the ecological condition and water quality entering Sandringham Bay while improving public amenity.

Little McCreadys Creek

Little McCreadys Creek is a modified urban waterway corridor at the headwaters of McCreadys Catchment, surrounded by residential land. The creek retains remnant Melaleuca leucadendra and is upstream of a continuous vegetated riparian corridor. The corridor is highly utilised and well considered by the community. Threats to the creek include channel modification (exacerbating erosion), stormwater runoff, fragmentation, invasive weeds and limited habitat features.

Little McCreadys Creek.
Little McCreadys Creek pre works (December 2015). Works were designed retain existing footprint to minimise bank disturbance.

Improvement works included the installation of four wetlands, four fishways, refuge pools, and instream habitat features (including wetland and instream planting). Such works enhance the riparian corridor by providing habitat connectivity, increasing biodiversity, improving filtration (buffer), reducing runoff velocities and improving the amenity of the creek.

Terrestrial revegetation and weed control works complementary to the habitat improvement works include: improving water quality (filtration and reduce runoff velocities); improving instream environments (shade, ph, leaf litter inputs, filtration capacity etc.,) stabilising sediments (mitigate erosion); increasing habitat and structural complexity; and, improving the visual amenity, community connection and ecosystem service values. Instream vegetation also acts to intercept marine debris and pollutants and prevents future deposition into the downstream environments. Weed control works facilitate vegetation establishment and recruitment and assist in increasing connectivity, habitat and refuge within the headwaters of this catchment.


Site preparation at Little McCreadys Creek.
Little McCreadys Creek site preparation. Removal of para grass revealed sediment deposition resulting from house construction higher in the catchment (January 2017)
Little McCreadys Creek rock work.
Little McCreadys Creek pre works (December 2015). Works were designed retain existing footprint to minimise bank disturbance.
Rock armouring to assist with bank stabilisation (January 2016).
Instream vegetation was planted to filter water pollutants and provide habitat for local native fauna (March 2016).
Community residents joining in a community revegetation day (April 2016).
Vegetation establishment eighteen months after initial planting (September 2017).

Lagoons Creek

Lagoons Creek is a highly modified tributary of the lower Pioneer River and Lagoons Creek (Stage 2) and is situated immediately upstream from the freshwater/estuarine interface of lower Lagoons Creek (Stage 1). The greater Lagoons Creek Catchment encompasses nearly 600ha, of which 20% is urban land use. Increased urban development and agricultural farming practices have impacted the watercourse through vegetation clearing, channelisation and straightening. These impacts have resulted in sediment deposition, exotic weed proliferation and subsequently, fragmented the creek into sections of discontinuous waterway. Loss of instream connectivity impacts aquatic species migration.

Stage 1 improvement works established a rock lined open channel drain, three rock-ridge fishways and a riparian corridor linking fresh and marine waters. Stage 2 involved the re-creation of a paleochannel, installation of two wetlands, three fishways and the extension of the vegetative corridor, permanently linking existing freshwater lagoons to Pioneer River. Installation of multiple fishways at the freshwater/marine water interface is of vital importance to the life cycles of many native migratory fish species (e.g. tarpon) opening suitable breeding ground for native migratory species is of significant environmental, recreational and commercial value to the region. Installation of 10-15,000 indigenous species in a formerly denuded landscape will assist in bed and bank stabilisation as well as increase biodiversity and connectivity and improve instream environments. Recreating a riparian corridor, and the subsequent ongoing weed control works will facilitate revegetation and recruitment over initial years (3-7 years), where, it is anticipated that, weed control works will lessen over time as the native canopy and other strata establish. Works will improve stormwater quality, fish migration and improve the environmental and aesthetic values of lower Lagoons Creek.

Stage 1 involved the installation of a rock ridge fishway within lower Lagoons Creek. Small drops between ridges, riffles and refuge areas are critical to the migration of important commercial, recreational and indigenous fish species (e.g. barramundi and tarpon) upstream into freshwater wetland and waterway nursery habitats.
Large 1 to 1.5 m sized natural round boulders rocks were installed to armour the bank from high velocities experienced as consequence of stream modification (due to agriculture and urbanisation).
Stage 2 involved the installation of two online
wetlands and the installation of a rock ridge fishway.

Gross Pollutant Traps

A total of 44 gross pollutant traps were installed between 2013 and 2016, over the course of the Urban Reef Rescue Project. Three trash racks were installed in the Cannonvale Botanic Gardens to isolate and retain inorganic material (namely litter) and reduce the amount of organic material (which contains/captures microscopic pollutants) entering Pioneer Bay. Forty-one litter baskets were installed in Mackay’s CBD stormwater pits to capture waterborne pollutants drained across the stormwater network. Litter baskets are lightweight, uniquely designed with a by-pass and net, and angled so drainage flow in high rainfall events is not impeded. Furthermore, each basket is viewable from the street; significantly reducing the maintenance burden on council street sweepers. Based on similar examples in the region, it is expected that the 41 litter baskets will capture one tonne of debris every quarter. Six wetlands were installed within Mackay, with four installed into Little McCreadys Creek and two into Lagoons Creek.

Gross pollutant traps within Cannonvale Botanic Gardens capture pollutants from impervious surfaces such as roads and housing developments.

Rubbish in litter trap.
One of 41 aluminium litter traps installed in the Mackay CBD. These traps are lightweight, viewable from the road and easily accessed, making them ideal for stormwater litter management. Litter traps are effective at trapping a range of pollutants.

Community Clean Up Events

Numerous Coastal Clean Up and Clean Streets and Creeks events were held across the region over the course of the Urban Reef Rescue Project. The premise of these events is to increase community awareness and involvement in preventing land based litter from entering the marine environment. The clean-ups targeted coastal beaches and urban hot spots for gross pollutants (i.e. urban stormwater outlets draining into the GBR lagoon). Key outcomes include –

  • removal of land based litter from urban coastal environments (and prevention of marine debris)
  • community engagement activities to raise awareness of the impacts of urban litter and stormwater on reef water quality
  • date collection on key locations and types of litter to assist in future decisions on the best interception infrastructure
People with bags of rubbish.
Mackay Coastal Clean Up event at Town Beach, Mackay.

This project has been completed.

Funding source: These projects would not be possible without the generous support and contributions from the Australian Government (Reef Rescue), Mackay Regional Council, Conservation Volunteers Australia Green Army Team and the generosity of community members who played a pivotal role in volunteering with revegetation works.