Townsville City Council
  Contact Us        Home  
  Environmental Programs
  Urban Storm Water Quality Management Plan
  Rowes Bay Reserve
  Wildlife Reflector Program
  Townsville Plants
  Contact Us
Email A FriendEmail a Friend


Environmental Management Services

Urban Stormwater Quality Management Plan


Townsville City Council is currently developing an urban stormwater quality management plan to protect the environmental values of the streams, drainage lines and wetlands in the Townsville area.  An atlas has been prepared to facilitate the first stage of consultation. 

It represents a compilation of available literature on the ecological condition and existing use of the drainage lines and waters into which stormwater flows. The community is invited to comment on the descriptions of these sites.


Stormwater is rainfall which runs off roads, roofs, car parks of residential and commercial areas and land and then flows into local creeks, rivers, lakes and the ocean.  These creeks, rivers, lakes and the ocean are termed "receiving waters".  Stormwater can become polluted if it picks up chemicals and litter from its catchment.  When contaminated stormwater flows into receiving waters it has the potential to adversely affect the environmental quality of those aquatic environments.  Urban catchments are particularly problematic due to:

  • the amount of hard surfaces that do not allow rainfall to soak into the ground;

  • the speed with which runoff is drained to receiving waters; and

  • the proximity of stormwater drainage systems to sources of pollution, such as oil and grease from roads, litter, sediment and other pollutants from domestic, commercial and industrial activities which can enter the drainage system.



The State government is raising awareness within the community, business and industry about stormwater issues.  In 1997 the Environmental Protection (Water) Policy 1997 (EPP (Water)) was enacted to help manage the quality of Queensland’s waters.  EPP (Water) is based upon the principles of ecologically sustainable development established in the Environmental Protection Act (1994).  Under EPP (Water), each local government with an urban stormwater system is required to develop and implement stormwater quality management plans.


Urban Stormwater Quality Management Plan

Townsville City Council (TCC) has been actively involved in stormwater management by providing the city with infrastructure (eg. drains) and managing activities to reduce the impact of stormwater on Townsville’s aquatic and riparian habitats.  As a natural extension of this, Council is reviewing the environmental condition of drainage lines and receiving waters.  This review will be used to develop a plan to further improve the quality of urban stormwater drainage and to protect Townsville’s environs.  Sinclair Knight Merz has been asked to assist in the development of this Urban Stormwater Quality Management Plan (USQMP).

TCC’s USQMP will be prepared in accordance with the statutory requirements of EPP (Water) and will examine the following:

  • Environmental values of drainage lines and receiving waters that should be protected.

  • Cost-effective measures to minimise contamination of receiving waters.

  • Cost-effective measures to maximise stormwater infiltration and soakage.

  • Planning and design of new infrastructure, including minimising ecological impacts on waters in the locality, acceptable health risks, aesthetics, protection from flooding, public safety and other social issues.

  • Opportunities to build contaminant control measures and re-establish riparian vegetation and aesthetically pleasing environments where drainage corridors have become degraded.

  • The order of priority for implementing maintenance or improvement works.

  •  Integration of the plan with catchment based planning and land use planning.


Definitions for Managing Water Quality

Several of the terms used to describe the management of water quality have specific meanings, some of which are not immediately clear.  The use of these terms in the current document is explained below.   

Site Description   
This plan is all about managing important sites.  It is also about prioritising which sites are in greatest need of protection from the adverse effects of stormwater.  Before this can be done, the important characteristics of each site which receive stormwater runoff must be described.  This includes a description of ecological characteristics, such as the types of plants and animals which occur at that site.  It might also include whether a site has particular ecological values (such as being a wildlife corridor), or is habitat for rare or threatened flora or fauna. "Ecological values" must not be confused with the term "environmental value" which has a specific meaning under EPP (Water), and is described below.   

Site Uses   
It is also important to understand how people use and appreciate these sites so that existing and future levels of threat can be gauged.  Site uses can sometimes conflict with urban stormwater management.  For example, urbanisation of a catchment requires flood prevention works which could threaten water quality if important vegetation is removed.  Since it is the aim of the USQMP to produce a plan which acknowledges the human context of the catchment, it is also important that site uses (and the management issues these can lead to) are identified.   

Environmental Values   
Ordinarily the term "environmental value" might be used in a manner similar to that above for "site description".  However this term has a specific meaning under EPP (Water) and will be used in TCC’s USQMP in a manner consistent with that Policy.   

EPP (Water) and the ANZECC (1992) "Australian Water Quality Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Waters" (AWQG) establish default standards for water quality according to the desired characteristics or uses of a particular water body.  The highest level of protection or care is given to water bodies which are managed to achieve healthy natural ecosystems.  In this case the "environmental value" or management goal is "ecosystem protection".  A water body which is used for industry water supply and does not need to be managed for any other type of use would be assigned an "environmental value" or management goal of "industrial water".  Ultimately, these types of standards will be applied to all Townsville water bodies.  Until they are, we need to be careful not to use the term "environmental value" in a way which might later cause confusion. For now though, we simply need to identify site uses and issues.


Standards for Managing Water Quality

AWQG defines 5 main levels of "environmental value" or standards for managing water quality.  The full listing of "environmental values" used in AWQG is:   

  • ecosystem protection (both inland and marine), including protection of waters used for shellfish and fish production and by wildlife

  • recreation and aesthetics

  • raw water for drinking water supply

  • agricultural water

  • industrial water

EPP (Water) which draws heavily upon this list of "environmental values".  It also puts in place a framework for deciding on appropriate "environmental values" for water bodies.  In essence TCC will develop and propose environmental values for each site, then Department of Environment and Heritage and Department of Natural Resources will review and reach a decision.


Planning Process

Study Process

Stages in the Urban Stormwater Quality Plan

A general model for the preparation and ongoing review of TCC’s USQMP is shown above.  The first stage in the development of the USQMP is to establish the existing environmental condition of the drainage lines and receiving waters, that is, produce "site descriptions" for each wetland area. This process is being done through community consultation, review of existing literature and an assessment of the hydrology and ecology of each site.  

For Stage One of the USQMP, TCC has produced an atlas of key sites of receiving waters in Townsville. This atlas is being made available for public consultation so that you, the community, can help us describe these sites and/or suggest additional sites you think should be included in the atlas. Information you provide to us through will be used in Stage Two.

Stage Two will commence once we have all the information about sites from stakeholder groups and the public.  In Stage Two we decide on the management objectives for each site.  This means establishing the "environmental values" which AWQG and EPP (Water) use to set an appropriate standard for each water body.  These values will be prepared by TCC and reviewed by a local technical committee comprising scientists, planners, engineers and representatives of Department of Environment and Heritage (DEH) and Department of Natural Resources.  DEH will have the final say in adopting values before Stage Three is undertaken.

In Stage Three we will assess the levels of threat that stormwater impacts pose to the key sites identified in Stage One.  For each site we will determine whether current or future stormwater runoff will impact the site so that the water quality objectives necessary to meet the environmental value may not be achieved.  Obviously the greatest levels of threat will be found in sites which need to be managed to maintain ecological integrity, but in which there is heavy urbanisation or industrial development.  

Stage Four will identify and determine the cost of implementing infrastructure or other programs to achieve the water quality standards identified in Stage Two.  A range of different options will be examined for each priority site.  Options, their cost, and their likelihood of leading to improved water quality will be compared for each site so that the highest priorities can be established to protect the sites under greatest threat.  This method ensures that public funds are directed to where they will achieve the greatest good.  Once this has been determined a document describing the outcomes of Stage Four will be made available for public consultation. 

In Stage Five, a 5 year works program will be developed to provide guidance to Council on infrastructure required to improve urban stormwater quality management in the priority areas.

Stage Six is the implementation phase, when Council will conduct the improvement works.  This stage will extend to the end of each rolling 5 year implementation phase, after which the entire process will be revisited.  During the implementation phase it may sometimes be necessary to review portions of the USQMP, particularly if major projects or urban developments affect key sites.


Where are we now

We are now in Stage One.  Background information has been reviewed and we are now seeking public feedback before finalising the Atlas of Environmental Values.

Identifying Key Sites for the Atlas

The first stage in developing the TCC USQMP has been to review the environmental conditions and existing uses of aquatic habitats in the Townsville area.  Sixty-two key sites have been identified and described in this atlas. Information has been obtained from the following sources:

  • Australian Centre for Tropical Freshwater Research.  Wetlands of the Townsville area.  Report No 96/28 (1996).

  • Australian Conservation Authority (1996). Directory of important wetlands.

  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority - Central Great Barrier Reef Zoning information.

  • Rapid Identification of Key Environmental Sites (RIKES).  A Community-Based Programme for Environmental Planning in Townsville (1990).

  • State of Queensland (1998) - Department of Environment and Heritage - Information on Stormwater.

  • Townsville - Thuringowa Strategy Plan. Nature Conservation Draft Policy Paper (1996).

  • Townsville City Council - Engineering Services.

  • Townsville City Council Land Information Services.


List of Sites

Enquiries   |   Your Comments   |   Legal Information   |   Privacy & Security   |   Sitemap   |   Help
Copyright 2004  Townsville City Council
A.B.N. 81143904097