Waterway health

Waterways are important to both the natural environment and human activities. We can all play a role in keeping our waterways, catchments and oceans clean and healthy for future generations as well as the plants and animals that rely on them.

Council has invested significant resources into managing the water quality and ecosystem health of the Willoughby area.

The activities that contribute to improving our waterway health include:

  • Water quality monitoring.
  • Targeted pollution reduction and compliance.
  • Installation and maintenance of gross pollutant traps.
  • Hand cleaning of the waterways by contractors and volunteers.
  • Regular street sweeping.
  • Water sensitive urban design features in streetscapes, bushland, public spaces (for example, Victoria Avenue Mall) and private developments.
  • Waterway rehabilitation.
  • Bushland management. 

Effects of stress on waterways

Human activity, unsustainable water use, land clearing and urban development place significant stress on our waterways and the quality of our water.

Some of the challenges that have resulted are:

  • Balancing the environmental, social and economic goals for sustainable use of the waterways.
  • The economic and community costs of decreasing water quality.
  • The increase in land clearing, soil erosion, water and soil salinity as well as littering and weed invasion to previously balanced ecosystems.
  • The loss of native plants and animals near creeks and rivers.
  • Community education to stop litter, commonly cigarette butts and packaging, ending up in our creeks, rivers and beaches.

Water quality monitoring

Council has contracted Sydney Water to monitor and test our waterway health throughout the LGA. Results are also published in our annual Water Quality Report Card(PDF, 2MB). For further information regarding water quality, please contact the Environment Branch through the Customer Service Centre or email@willoughby.nsw.gov.au.

For their latest information and results on Council's water quality, see the Water Quality Report 2023(PDF, 2MB).

Northbridge Baths enterococci data collected under the Beachwatch Programs can be viewed on the Office of Environment and Heritage website.

Water sensitive urban design

Councils commitment to maintain and enhance waterway health has seen many new projects constructed, with plans to continue this work. Council is currently focused on constructing the following to meet this commitment, with a focus on hydrocarbons, oils and dissolved solids;

  • Bio-filtration ponds.
  • Raingardens.
  • Swales.
  • Oil booms.
  • Mechanical inline filtration.
  • Gross pollutant traps.


Maintenance is a cornerstone of waterway health assets. Unmaintained waterway assets contribute to waterway pollution as they become deoxygenated and a source of trapped pollution which can cause great damage to the downstream ecosystem. Council has planned for ongoing maintenance of each waterway asset that has been implemented and the role has been managed by the environment unit to monitor cost, record of data and effectiveness of water asset implementation. Further, Council has been increasing funding to water asset maintenance to renew assets and bring them into a regular maintenance schedule.

Council is working with maintenance service providers to deliver a consistent report of works completed. Once established, Council will publish the data from maintenance efforts on a 6 monthly basis.

Help keep our waterways clean

Everyone in the community has a role to play in keeping our waterways clean.

The rise in residential and commercial development has led to soil, sand, dirt and mud directly polluting our waterways and causing severe environmental problems when not properly contained on building sites. Get the Site Right aims to educate and encourage developers and builders on the use of erosion and sediment controls to protect our waterways.

If you would like to get involved with helping clean up litter from the creeks and reserves in the Willoughby City Council area, register with Clean Up Australia for Clean Up Australia Day, which runs every year on the first Sunday in March.

Register your interest

Some of the achievements of our corporate and community volunteers include:

  • 2,400 litres (the equivalent of 10 wheelie bins) of rubbish from Flat Rock Creek and surrounding area by 30 volunteers on a typical Clean Up Australia Day.
  • Approximately 3,000 litres of rubbish removed from Scotts Creek and Middle Cove foreshore areas by 40 volunteers on Clean Up Australia Day 2019.

Council also runs a manual creek clean up involving contractors as part of the e.restore program.

Council’s initiatives to prevent pollution and restore our creeks have been used as international case studies. Learn more at cleanwater.net.au.