Rivers and creeks

Rivers, estuaries and wetlands are central to everyday life, sustaining a complex ecosystem of plants, animals and people and making Melbourne a beautiful place to live. Learn how we look after Melbourne’s 8,400 kilometres of waterways.

Yarra River at sunset

Our waterways matter
They provide habitat for more than 1,800 species of native plants and 600 species of native animals - and supply water to homes and businesses, including the farms that grow our food. Waterways are attractive and relaxing places to visit, making Melbourne a nicer place to live.

Why we look after our rivers

The plants and animals that rely on rivers live together in a delicate balance. However, this can be upset by human activities that change a river’s natural state, sometimes with widespread and destructive results.

Key threats to our rivers include:

  • drought and climate change
  • taking water for agriculture, businesses and homes
  • using more land for farming or building on — this increases the amount of surfaces like roofs and roads that cannot absorb water, which then washes litter and pollutants into our drains and creeks (stormwater pollution)

These threats make life hard for plants and animals, due to:

  • habitat loss
  • poor water quality
  • erosion
  • unnatural water temperature or flows
  • barriers to migration
  • flooding — which impacts people as well

What we’re doing

Newly planted trees along a waterway

We can’t restore every river and creek to its natural state, but we can help protect and improve them. Each year we invest $65 million doing this, while balancing the needs of the community, costs and safety.

Our work includes:

  • planting native vegetation
  • removing weeds, litter and debris
  • releasing water to mimic natural river flows (environmental flows)
  • making sure councils and land developers include techniques in new houses that capture and clean stormwater (water sensitive urban design)

We also monitor and research waterways to get accurate information that guides our activities, and shows how well these are working. It can take a long time for the positive effects to show — up to 50 years for riverbank revegetation  — but we know our works make an impact.

How you can help

There are many ways you can care for your local waterway, such as:

Last updated:
27 February 2020