From the valley of Werribee River through Wyndham, it is unusual that the view upwards onto the banks, does not include buildings on the skyline.
Waking from the Maltby Bypass, a walker sees evidence of spilled building debris from earlier times when farm buildings were demolished, and pushed into the river valley. On those same farm sites there now stands tall concrete walled buildings separated from the walker by high cyclone fences, giving an abrupt block to any views which may have been possible. A cold and unnatural barrier. These same buildings could have been built more sympathetically for this gateway area which can be seen from the busy Princes Freeway.
Werribee River Association is seriously concerned about the impacts of seemingly permanent blue-green algae and Azolla species in the Werribee River below the diversion weir in Werribee.
There have been three blue-green algae blooms in up to twelve kilometres of the Werribee River between the diversion weir and the estuary since spring 2014.
The worst blooms were during summer directly downstream of the Maltby Bypass, where safari bus tourists at Werribee Open Range Zoo witnessed a sickly bright green waterway! Over the same time we have had an outbreak of Azolla species on the surface of the river through the CBD for up to six kilometres in length. It alarms WRivA that various other authorities do not consider these matters as part of their responsibility or are unclear about who is to take responsibility. That situation is of major concern.
Recent litter research by WRivA in the Werribee River in Wyndham says that stormwater drains contribute most of the litter found.
Most of the litter is plastic, either containers, snack packs or plastic bags. Thousands of items were found, and it was staggering to realise that Wyndham contributes many thousands of these items to the litter load on Port Phillip Bay.
Transect studies, drain outlet surveys and visual observations were employed to establish findings.
A great deal of the litter makes its way downstream and heads for Port Phillip Bay. On the way it lodges in reed beds, behind woody debris or is on the banks covered in grass. From those locations it makes its way seaward when higher river flows do arrive.
Our research says that the stormwater drains need attention, as we need to make an impact on our wasteful lifestyle. Incentives like plastic bag free towns and container deposit legislation would provide a relief for our waterways.
These problems are not unique to Wyndham. Why is government letting this situation go on?
The lower Werribee river looks like a billiard table top, with the 100% covering of it by Azolla, for over three kilometres in length through the Werribee CBD, and another 1km a little upstream. Good views of the table top can be seen at Comben Dr and anywhere behind the CBD. Azolla is a native fern which loves still warm nutrient rich water. This section of the river has a practically useless low flow, let out of the Werribee Diversion Weir in a constant stream like a low to moderate flow from a fire hose. This same stretch of river was part of a longer length going downstream which endured a blue-green algal bloom of up to 7 or 8 km long earlier in summer, and the bloom is returning. Readers should walk under the Maltby Rd bridges and look at the bloom, part of which is the green scum which lies on the surface of the Werribee Open Range Zoo segment of the river. The river needs water, and permanently. It is time to move on from the 100 years of over extraction and give it back its life-blood - normal water flows!
The recent discovery of 9000 containers in the Bungey's Hole Werribee River raises some important questions.
Why do we continue to accept poor quality infrastructure in the west of Melbourne?
What have our waterway managers let this problem go on for so long?
Where is Sate Government in all this - why do they let the confusing situation survive where no-one knows who is in charge of our waterways - is it local government. Melbourne Water, State Government - no-one knows.
Where is the EPA? This is a serious problem. What else is coming out of the Bulban Rd drain? Why do we have such serious blue-green algae outbreaks in the Werribee below this point?
Where is our local press? They churn out standard sensationalism, pet, police, fashion, personality, sport and trivia stories. But where is their community responsibility?
We need cash for containers, clarification of responsibility among authorities, proper care for our beautiful assets, and an interested and challenging press.
The Werribee River is the major waterway of the urban growth expansion area to the west of Melbourne. The river begins in the Wombat Forest, is joined by that other beautiful river, the Lerderderg, at the eastern end of Bacchus Marsh, and together they provide a life giving link for those municipalities and electorates from the Great Dividing Range to Port Phillip Bay.
To enhance the west of Melbourne, for now and the future, the Werribee River needs to have an official upgraded status like parts of the Lerderderg, and the River needs to become a linear park, with controls and usage guidelines to assist the community gain the greatest level of human health and amenity which the community needs and will come to rely on in the future.
The River needs to have swimmable, fishable, drinkable water now and for ever.
We need to declare the river a place for the people for all time.
A Container Deposit Scheme is an effective way in which we can do something about solving the litter problem. Most Australians want it, and so if it came to pass most Australians would support it by working with kids, or charities, or whoever sets up a business to collect the containers. So pocket money, the disadvantaged and business would benefit.
Litter legislation would be a second effective way in which we can solve the litter problem. Manufacturers, retailers and some consumers take no responsibility at all for the end use of the containers, or plastic, or foam, or packaging of any kind that is sold to us when we buy something. Laws and regulations making packaging biodegradable, minimal, and or returnable are needed.
The Werribee River has been regulated - i.e. controlled by tunnels which take water to reservoirs, and barriers i.e. diversion weirs, since the early 1900s. Three major storages collect winter rains and hold them for release in summer when it is needed for agriculture. Now that was seen as the way to go in the 1900s, when winter rains were more reliable and the only users of the water and the river were farmers and small towns. However, one hundred years later, less reliable rains and the growth of cities containing half a million people by 2036, will mean times have changed.
Now, alternative water supplies are possible, rainfall has altered greatly, the catchment is drying out, wildlife is dying, and human demands on the river are growing beyond just food supplies. So it is time to rethink what we are doing to the Werribee River.
Victoria has a desalination plant which we are paying for, and not using its water. A pipe was laid to connect the Melbourne Water system to the Werribee Diversion Weir pool in major drought time in the 2000s, so the opportunity to reconnect the system and use some of the desalination water to save the river is possible.
We need to give the river back to the people and save it and its unique Australian characteristics for future generations, and we need politicians with vision to do that for us.
Support the Werribee Riverkeeper in our latest call during the Victorian Election Campaign.
The curse of litter is the world's worst environmental and human health problem. It is not just an amenity issue which the world thinks we can get rid of by picking it up. It is a consumer waste problem. It is threatening our very existence, endangering our future generations health, harming the free human health services such as fresh air, water and pollination and getting into our bodies. Litter is threatening the range of biodiversity which will be available in the future. It is harming our tourism industry and other businesses.
Token support and words by business and politicians is simply prolonging and exacerbating the problem.
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