Beyond your boundary

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Understanding where our water comes from and helping to care for our catchments is essential for the wellbeing of all of us.

Caring for our catchments

A catchment is an area of land from which rainwater drains into a creek, river, reservoir, lake, estuary, ocean, or into groundwater reservoirs. We all live in a catchment, the food we eat and the water we drink comes from a catchment and we depend on them for survival.

This region is covered by the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (areas south of Ballarat) and North Central Catchment Management Authority (areas north of Ballarat) for surface water, and Southern Rural Water for groundwater.

Being close to the top of a number of catchments ensures Ballarat has better water quality than areas downstream. Ballarat, though, has a duty to ensure that water from these catchments reaches other areas with a minimum of pollutants.

Water storages

Drinking water is generally drawn from two sources: surface water (rainfall and its runoff) and groundwater bores (water collected underground in aquifers). Ballarat and district’s water supply is predominantly sourced from the Upper West Moorabool and Yarrowee River catchments situated to the east of Ballarat. The two main storages are White Swan Reservoir (located to the north) and Lal Lal Reservoir (located to the south). Central Highlands Water manages the delivery of water and wastewater services in this region.
Check the water levels in Ballarat’s water storages.

Many people live, work and participate in activities within catchment areas that are used for supplying a domestic source of water to communities. Central Highlands Water’s Water quality fact sheet illustrates the ways our actions can impact on water quality.

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A healthy catchment has clean water and healthy river flows to meet both human and environmental needs. It has rivers with sufficient water to provide habitat for native fish species, flourishing streamside vegetation, and wetlands that provide habitats for frogs, birds, bugs and more. It is land where weeds and feral animals are controlled, where native flora and fauna are protected, where land is managed sustainably to produce food and other resources, and where people go about their lives in ways that cause minimal disruption to the environment. Here are some ways we can help keep our catchments healthy:

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Many garden plants are weeds and if planted or dumped along waterways they can spread along the water line and grow in areas where they compete with indigenous vegetation and choke the waterway.

Planting indigenous vegetation in gardens can reduce the spread of weeds into waterways. When planted along waterways, indigenous plants can spread seed and germinate downstream. Indigenous plants also provide valuable habitat for native animals, birds and insects.

To learn about what to plant in your backyard, visit these sites:


Willows, blackberries and gorse are common weeds on waterways in the Ballarat region. Their seed can be dispersed by water and spread along the waterways choking indigenous plants.

Your local Landcare group and the Catchment Management Authorities (links below) can provide advice on appropriate weed removal techniques which won’t destabilise the riverbanks. Weed removal, in conjunction with indigenous revegetation and stock fencing will help improve river health and prevent the spread of weeds.

Weed removal, in particular willow removal, can dramatically change the appearance of an area. But as native revegetation takes hold, the area will not only return to its original beauty, but become a haven for native birds and animals.

Visit the Catchment Management Authority websites:

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Erosion leads to soil loss into rivers. This can reduce light penetration in waterways and prevent aquatic plants from producing oxygen.  Planting trees, shrubs and grasses in catchment area can stabilise soils and prevent topsoil loss.  Some good resources to help reduce the impact of erosion include:

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Droppings from stock can wash into waterways generating algal blooms and reducing aquatic plant and animal growth.  Hard hooved animals can compact soils around waterways preventing the growth of plants. Fencing stock away from rivers and waterways reduces cattle waste entering the waterways and protects the riverbank from erosion and vegetation loss.

Visit these sites to find out more:

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Farm dams capture water before it enters the river, reducing the natural flow in rivers and altering the aquatic ecosystem. Farm dams can be an inefficient way of storing water. Evaporation reduces farm dam efficiency and can result in more than a 40% loss in water during a 12 month period.

Evaporative loss is greater in small dams of less than one megalitre due to higher surface area to volume ratio.There are cost effective and reliable alternatives to providing, collecting and delivering water on farms:

  1. Urban water supply – Urban water supply from Central Highlands Water may be the most effective option, if you have access to it.
  2. Rainwater harvesting from all your roof surfaces – The amount of water that can be harvested from a roof is surprising. One square metre of roof surface will yield one litre of water for every one millimetre of rainfall. Storing rainwater in tanks is near enough to 100% efficient. Rainwater harvesting calculators are available online, Tankulator is one that has been developed by the Alternative Technology Association.
  3. Groundwater – Sustainably harvested groundwater is another very efficient means of supplying stock water as you only pump the amount you need. It is not subject to the evaporation rates associated with surface water. Its suitability is subject to low salinity levels.

Other sources – Recycled water is another alternative source in some instances, as is grey water from the household. Its suitability is subject to availability and the water quality requirements of your stock or crops.

Further information is available from the following:

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Excessive and/or incorrect use of nutrients such as phosphorous can cause them to wash into waterways leading to algal blooms and impacts to aquatic life.

Spread fertiliser at appropriate times of the year when the risk of run-off is reduced, and use sparingly (this will save money too!)  Planting vegetation along waterways will help to filter excess nutrients. Artificial wetlands can also act as a filter system for excess nutrients.

Further information:

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Often stormwater drains in rural areas are not pipes, but drainage lines. These direct excess water from paddocks and roads into waterways. This run-off can carry nutrients and soil into the waterways.

Planting vegetation such as reeds and rushes can act as filters removing excess nutrients before water enters rivers.  Artificial wetlands can also act as a filter system for pollutants and sediment before run-off enters waterways. Frog Watch website has information on constructing a household greywater wetland.

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Frogs have been widely used as ecosystem health bio-indicators and they are also good indicators of water quality. A ‘bio-indicator’ is a living creature that is indicating something good or bad about the area that it lives in. For example, having lots of frogs in an area tells us that the environment is healthy and complete for the frogs. If for some reason frogs are suddenly missing from an area or their population is shrinking, this is an indicator that the environment of the frogs is changing.

Frogs are called good bio-indicators because they spend part of their life cycle on land and some in water. They have a permeable skin, which allows substances to move relatively freely into their body and absorb and concentrate toxins in their fatty tissues. This makes frogs susceptible to chemical contamination on land or in water. Frogs as bio-indicators can alert us to problems in our environment.
Frogs are also more likely to come into contact with chemicals as they live in both aquatic and terrestrial environments.

Further information:


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For the "Outside the home" topic, all the resources are found within the Take Action sub topics, above.