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Protecting catchments

Discover how we're protecting our catchments, and how you can play your part.

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Protecting catchments

Gold Coast hinterland creek

Our Gold Coast catchments feed into a variety of water environments that not only support diverse ecosystems, but also the livelihoods and lifestyles of Gold Coast residents and visitors.

It is important that we value, protect and restore these catchments and waterways to ensure they continue to provide a healthy and sustainable future for our ecosystems, the community and the economy.

Find out more about our catchments below.

What is a catchment?

A catchment is an area with a natural boundary (for example ridges, hills or mountains) where all surface water drains to a common channel to form rivers or creeks. Larger catchments are made up of smaller catchments, which form tributaries to the main watercourse within the catchment.

The Gold Coast consists of large and small catchments hosting a range of water environments, including groundwater reserves, creeks and rivers, lakes and wetlands, all of which eventually flow into the ocean. The Gold Coast hinterland forms a natural boundary for most of these catchments, which provide diverse aquatic and terrestrial habitats, and feature fresh water springs, pristine fast flowing streams and waterfalls.

These streams and waterfalls ultimately develop into the creeks and rivers that flow towards the coastline through a range of semi-rural areas and mixed urbanised settings until they reach our coastal water environments. These include the Broadwater and other estuaries, with their stands of mangrove and salt marsh, as well as the city’s vast network of constructed lakes, wetlands and canals.

Gold Coast catchment areas

Managing Gold Coast catchments

The Gold Coast’s catchments contain many impressive landscape features and provide significant environmental, lifestyle and economic benefits to our growing city. Our city is renowned for its waterways and waterfront residential areas, including the largest constructed canal network (over 400 kilometres) in the Southern Hemisphere. All local catchments face pressures from different land uses, ranging from increased urbanisation and associated stormwater pollution to agricultural uses, population growth and the inherent increased use of our water resources.

Catchment Management Plans

Catchment Management Plans (CMPs) address water quality and ecosystem health issues for waterways throughout the Gold Coast.

When creating the CMPs, scientific research is undertaken to gather data on the state of a waterway and its associated catchment. Community consultation is also undertaken to determine Environmental Values (EVs) for the waterway. Once EVs are established Water Quality Objectives (WQOs) are then assigned to the waterway.

CMPs are used to assist with future water quality monitoring and management and generally include the following:

  • a current status report on the ecological health and diversity of biological communities in the waterway
  • an assessment of water quality conditions
  • the status and extent of riparian vegetation along the waterway
  • guidelines for a Stormwater Management Plan.

Read about the research and development work being undertaken by our Catchment Management Unit to inform the management of our catchment areas (see next subheading).

Learn about the City's efforts to monitor and improve the health and quality of our water environments.

Research and development

City of Gold Coast's Catchment Management Unit undertakes and supports research and development programs that examine these relationships so that the best environmental solutions can be applied that are innovative, practical and adaptive. Our research and development programs feed into the following services:

  • innovative approaches to environmental education, awareness and behavioural change
  • waterways and riparian restoration and habitat conservation management
  • innovative and adaptive environmental management approaches
  • tailored evaluation, monitoring and compliance of ecosystem health
  • water quality monitoring programs
  • aquatic flora and fauna monitoring programs
  • community capacity building in waterway management
  • assuring best practice design and quality assurance in all approaches.

The Catchment Management Unit also supports Griffith University under the ‘Industry Affiliates Program (IAP) which helps to integrate undergraduate and postgraduate students into the workplace. Each year we select marine science students to assist us in research that evaluates the condition of our coastal receiving waters such as the Broadwater, mangrove habitats and estuaries.

Below are examples of research and development programs undertaken by the Catchment Management Unit:

The following research reports are in draft and will be made available to the public upon completion:

  • Southport Broadwater Parklands Mangrove and Seagrass Habitat Project
  • Southport Broadwater Parklands - Condition of sediment and the associated fauna report
  • Southport Broadwater Parklands - Growth and condition of the planted mangroves (including nutrients and pollutant uptake) report.
  • Protecting Gold Coast Beaches: using coastal wetland habitat to improve water quality (published in Wetlands Australia Tourism - Urban Wetlands)

Water Sensitive Urban Design

The way we construct our urban environments affects the quality and quantity of stormwater running from our catchments into our waterways and hence the health of our rivers, creeks and the ocean.

Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) incorporates water into the urban landscape as a feature, enhancing the aesthetic, cultural, environmental and economic values of water.

WSUD is intended to reduce demand on reticulated water supply and importantly reduce the pollution from stormwater runoff by a range of approaches aimed at conserving water and improving water quality.

Achieving water sensitive urban communities depends on the City of Gold Coast, developers and residents all playing their part.


Some of the features that are prominent in greenfield areas that have utilised WSUD principles include:

  • grass swales to replace concrete gutters
  • bioretention basins to remove pollutants and allow for enhanced rainwater infiltration to groundwater
  • artificial wetlands provide stormwater buffering to natural waterways
  • rainwater tanks reduce household demand on reticulated water

Moreton Bay Waterways & Catchments Partnership

The City is an active member of the Moreton Bay Waterways and Catchments Partnership. The partnership is an alliance of local governments in south-east Queensland that has been formed to address water management in the region.

The partnership has developed WSUD guidelines for south-east Queensland with an excellent website detailing WSUD principles.

Help improve the health of our catchments

We all live in a catchment, so can all play a part in protecting our water environments. What we do in our homes, backyards and rural properties makes a difference to the health of our catchments and their waterways, which ultimately flow into the ocean. Water really is everyone’s business.

Find out how you can play an active part in improving the health of our catchments and aquatic ecosystems by visiting the Gold Coast Catchment Association Inc. website.

More information

For further information and advice contact our Catchment Management Unit on 1300 GOLDCOAST (1300 465 326) or
07 5582 8211.

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