Measuring the economic and social benefits of waterways

The region’s waterways provide many important benefits such as clean and safe drinking water, habitats for recreational and commercial fishing and a reliable water source for agricultural productivity.

Rivers, creeks, lakes and beaches that are easily accessible are an important place of recreation where locals can walk, cycle, swim, boat, fish, camp, picnic and socialise. South East Queensland residents also spend and save money using local waterways for recreation, which contributes to the economic value of the area.

But how is this measured? The Ecosystem Health Monitoring Program (EHMP) has taken advantage of major advances in predictive modelling and automate monitoring and today, not only reports on condition, but also on the drivers of ecosystem health and management responses. The program measures social and economic benefits informing the waterway benefit rating given to each catchment.

To develop the waterway benefit rating, 18 catchments are rated using six indicators combined into a single overarching index of social and economic benefits that the wider community receives from their waterways.

The following indicators are measured:

  1. Community satisfaction with local waterways.
  2. Appropriate access to local waterways.
  3. Personal benefits residents derive from using local waterways.
  4. Community motivation to use and protect waterways.
  5. Economic benefits generated through recreation.
  6. Contributions water supply catchments make to providing clean low-cost drinking water.


How do our waterways benefit the community?

The rivers, creeks, lakes, bays and beaches of South East Queensland provide significant value to the region’s residents and visitors alike. Most South East Queensland residents have a deep connection with nature, reporting that it is an important part of their lives.

Personal benefits arise when waterways act as a place of rest and relaxation, exercise or to socialise with friends and family. Residents of all catchments report high levels of social benefits from using their local waterways.
This year, waterways are reportedly having a calming, and restorative effect on people during a challenging time of drought, bushfires, and especially COVID-19 and its ensuing economic hardship.


Scrubby Creek Catchment Recovery | City of Logan

The Scrubby Creek Recovery Plan presents a long-term vision for the Scrubby Creek Catchment. The aim of this project is to re-engage the community with the waterway, and drive improvements in environmental health and social connection in line with the plan.

A range of riparian rehabilitation, stormwater disconnection, amenity improvements, education, environmental activities and local events, and connectivity projects have been delivered under the plan.

Scrubby Creek is an urban waterway which has been impacted by changes in catchment land uses. The development of the catchment, including the removal of riparian vegetation, channelisation and the increase of stormwater velocities and pollutants, has led to a decline in its health and biodiversity and has reduced its value to the local community.

Over the past year a variety of projects have commenced to enhance both the environmental and recreational value of the catchment. These works have added to the social value of Scrubby Creek, improved water quality and creek line amenity, increased habitat and riparian connection and reduced litter pollution and weeds within the catchment.

Read more here


2021 Report Card results

The 2021 Report Card revealed 84% of residents used their local waterways for some form of rest and recreation, including walking, cycling, swimming, picnics and fishing. However, COVID-19 restrictions have affected how people use their local waterways. While 25% of people use them less, reporting overcrowding and fear of COVID-19, 52% report they use them the same and 16% of residents report they use them more now than before the pandemic, for exercise and escaping stress.

High numbers of residents are satisfied with their local waterways in the coastal catchments of Noosa, Sunshine Coast and City of Gold Coast (67-85%). The environmental condition of these catchments ranges from fair to excellent, highlighting that good environmental condition promotes very high satisfaction with waterways, but not exclusively. Even if environmental condition is only fair, waterways with good accessibility and opportunities for engagement can still promote high levels of community benefits and satisfaction with local waterways.

Despite some of the poorest waterway condition in 2021 in freshwater catchments such as Lockyer, Upper Brisbane and Bremer, 48-63% of residents still report that local waterways in these catchments are a valuable place to meet up and socialise with friends and family.

While high numbers of residents feel a personal connection with nature (78% catchment average), fewer (45% catchment average) are motivated to protect their local waterways or feel it is their personal responsibility. Promoting opportunities for waterway stewardship across South East Queensland empowers resident action.


Small Creek naturalisation | City of Ipswich

The primary objective of the project is to transform Small Creek at Raceview from a concrete channel to a living waterway, providing significant community and environmental benefits.

The Small Creek naturalisation project is promoting groundwater recharge, recreating habitat for terrestrial and aquatic fauna and flora and improving water quality. Importantly, it has represented the desires of the community and provided opportunities to improve amenity and engage the community in the waterway.

Stage 3 was completed in 2021 and included the removal of more than 5,690 cubic metres of soil and 48,000 plants planted. Already wildlife is moving back into the waterway, with a variety of water birds, water bugs and fish being seen in the restored waterway.

Read more here


A healthy and functioning waterway generally provide more socio economic value to the community. The waterway benefit rating provides us with information on the values of waterways, not historically prioritised in catchment management. This information enables us to effectively manage our catchments and waterways through recognising community priorities.

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