Werribee catchment

​The Werribee catchment lies west of Melbourne and covers about 2,715 square kilometres, which varies from steep-sided hills and gorges to flat plains.

These plains are the driest area in Victoria south of the Great Dividing Range.

Werribee catchment area

Only about one-quarter of the region has kept its natural vegetation, with land mainly used for agriculture. However, national and state parks contain areas of high conservation value, and the scattered remains of the lowland plains grasslands are of national or state significance.

Wetlands play a key role in the lower catchment, with many of the major rivers and creeks flowing through coastal wetlands listed under the international Ramsar convention.

The Werribee catchment is earmarked for significant future urban development, which poses challenges and opportunities for waterway protection. Good planning is needed to minimise the impacts of development.

The Werribee catchment contains three sub-catchments:

  • Werribee and Little River Middle and Upper system

  • Werribee and Little River Lowlands system​

  • Cherry, Kororoit, Laverton and Skeleton system

 

Werribee and Little River Middle and Upper system

The major waterways within this system are:

  • Werribee River (middle and upper reaches)

  • Little River (middle and upper reaches)

  • Lerderderg River

  • Goodman Creek

  • Pyrites Creek

  • Parwan Creek

  • Balliang Creek

  • Pykes Creek

The headwaters of the Werribee and Lerderderg rivers, and their associated gorges, are recognised as sites of international and state geomorphological significance. Their rugged and steep landscapes provide breeding habitat for peregrine falcons and wedge-tailed eagles, and house significant species like the powerful owl, common bentwing bat and brush-tailed phascogale.

The waterways in the upper catchment support a wide variety of plants from fern gullies to dry open forests. Forested areas provide excellent recreation opportunities like bushwalking, rock climbing and picnicking, and a stroll along the Werribee River between Ballan and Bacchus Marsh may result in a glimpse of a platypus. The community highlighted many of these values as being special features of this system.

The greatest challenge for waterway health is the impact of urban growth. Significant areas of land along the lower Werribee River and in Bacchus Marsh will continue to be used for agriculture, affecting water quality. 

Condition of key values

​Key value Condition Details
​Current: very low, 20-year: very low, Long-term: moderate Platypus populations have declined significantly in the past 200 years. While they have been sighted, recent surveys have seen a lack of captures. We aim to improve habitat and flows to stabilise conditions over the next 20 years, with long-term improvement.
​Current: high, 20-year: very high, Long-term: very high The variety and ratio of native fish is high. Passage, flows and vegetation works aim to improve this condition to very high over the next 20 years and into the future.
​Current: moderate, 20-year: high, Long-term: very high Frog species variety has declined since the 1990s. Habitat linking works aim to stabilise and improve this condition to high within the next 20 years.
​Current: low,20-year: moderate, Long-term: high Waterway-dependent bird populations are in low condition. We aim to improve this through vegetation works, and linking areas of habitat with vegetated streamside corridors in the long term.
​Current: moderate, 20-year: high, Long-term: very high Overall vegetation is in moderate condition, though quality declines in the lower reaches. We aim to improve this to high within the next 20 years.
​Current: moderate, 20-year: high, Long-term: very high Macroinvertebrate populations are in moderate condition. Revegetating streamside corridors and improving flows will raise this to high over the next 20 years.
​Current: moderate, 20-year: high, Long-term: very high Amenity is moderate, but we expect this to increase as improvement actions are implemented.

Werribee and Little River Lowlands system

The major waterways within this system are:

  • Werribee River (lower)

  • Little River

  • Lollypop  Creek

  • Davis Creek

Several aspects of this system are special to the community, including vegetation like woodlands, saltmarsh, orchids and grasslands, as well as recreation opportunities at the Werribee River estuary, Melton Reservoir and Little River Gorge. Valued native animals include platypus, frogs, fish and the orange-bellied parrot. The Western Treatment Plant’s Ramsar-listed wetlands and estuaries provide a haven for tens of thousands of birds and populations of growling grass frogs.

Challenges for waterway health include the impacts of urban growth and the need to balance environmental and economic outcomes, given significant areas of land along the lower Werribee River are used for agriculture.

Condition of key values

​Key value Condition Details
Current: very low, 20-year: very low, Long-term: moderate Platypus condition is low, with further declines due to the recent drought. Litter control programs, flow management and vegetation works for habitat aim to stabilise conditions with improvement over the long term.
​Current: high, 20-year: very high, Long-term: very high Fish communities are in high condition, with a large variety of native fish recorded. We aim to improve this condition to very high.
​Current: moderate, 20-year: high, Long-term: very high Frog species diversity is moderate. Improving habitat quality and connectivity aim to improve this to high over the next 20 years, and to very high in the long term.
​Current: high, 20-year: very high, Long-term: very high The variety and proportion of native birds is high, particularly at the Western Treatment Plant. Continued habitat improvement works aim to increase this rating to very high.
​Current: low, 20-year: moderate, Long-term: high Vegetation is mainly in low to moderate condition, but areas of high qualtiy are found towards the upper reaches of Little River. We aim to improve this to high in the long term.
​Current: moderate, 20-year: moderate, Long-term: high Macroinvertebrates are in moderate condition. Planting along rural waterways and preventing urbanisation impacts aims to maintin this and allow further improvements in the long term.
​Current: moderate, 20-year: high, Long-term: very high Amenity is moderate, but expected to improve to high in the next 20 years as urban development increases access opportunities and vegetation improves.

Cherry, Kororoit, Laverton and Skeleton system

The major waterways within this system all flow into Port Phillip Bay and include:

  • Kororoit Creek

  • Skeleton Creek

  • Cherry Creek

  • Laverton Creek

There are also many wetlands like Truganina Swamp and others built to treat stormwater. These waterways provide important recreational spaces and natural habitat in an area which was once primarily industrial, but is now rapidly transforming into residential areas.

Values highlighted by the community include remnant vegetation, native animals like the striped legless lizard and Altona skipper butterfly, and habitat areas such as Cheetham Wetlands.

Waterway health in this system faces a number of challenges such as:

  • urbanisation and altering waterways for flood protection

  • previous industrial activity such as quarrying and agriculture

  • balancing social and environmental needs

Condition of key values

​Key value Condition Details
​N/A No platypus populations have been found, and there is little suitable habitat for them. It is unclear when they disappeared: no reliable catches have been recorded since our monitoring program began in 1995.
​Current: moderate, 20-year: moderate, Long-term: high Fish populations are in moderate condition, and works aim to maintain this and improve it to high over the long term.
​Current: high, 20-year: high, Long-term: very high Frog species diversity is high. Floodplain works aim to maintain this over the next 20 years and achieve improvement in the long term.
​Current: low, 20-year: moderate, Long-term: high Bird variety and abundance is low for streamside birds and high for wetland birds, but low overall. Restoring vegetation and connecting large areas of parkland along waterways aims to improve this to moderate within the next 20 years.
​Current: low, 20-year: moderate, Long-term: high Vegetation is mainly in low condition. Revegetation works are focused on improving this to moderate in the next 20 years.
​Current: low, 20-year: low, Long-term: moderate Macroinvertebrates are in low condition. We aim to prevent decline over the next 20 years, and see improvements over the long term.
​Current: moderate, 20-year: high, Long-term: very h Amenity is moderate, but expected to improve to high in the next 20 years as urban development increases access opportunities and vegetation improves.
Last updated:
3 October 2017