Water Monitoring

The Waterwatch Program

The Waterwatch Program was set up by the Australian Government in 1993, and is supported by the Government’s Natural Heritage Trust.  Waterwatch provides standardised methods and equipment for local groups to monitor water quality in their rivers, streams and lakes.  Under Waterwatch, nearly 3000 groups across the country are monitoring water quality at over 7000 sites throughout 200 catchments.

Test results are collated in the Waterwatch Victoria database, which allows community data to be pooled, analysed and interpreted at the catchment level and beyond.  The information collected provides a basis for action to tackle problems and improve waterway health.

At BERG MM, we also record the results of our testing on our own database.

Click here to see the current Waterwatch data – Waterwatch Data Series 3.

Waterwatch data Series 2 – 2010-2014

For more information on Waterwatch Victoria go to www.vic.waterwatch.org.au.

Two community groups monitor Balcombe Creek at six different sites.  BERG MM now monitors at Augusta Street, Uralla Road bridge and The Briars.  The Mt Eliza Association for Environmental Care (MEAFEC) monitors two sites (Eramosa Road, and Mt Eliza Regional Park at Claremont Street).

BERG MM carries out its physical and chemical measurements on the fourth Sunday of every month and seasonal macro-invertibrate testing 4 times per year..

Testing Measures of Water Quality

Monitoring involves six measures of water quality:

  1. Electrical conductivity provides a measure of salinity (dissolved salt increases water’s conductivity). Our readings are consistent with those of tidal estuaries and varies depending on whether or not the creek mouth is open, and how much water is flowing downstream.
  2. pH is a measure of acidity. Some of the influences on this in Balcombe Creek are the rock and soil characteristics of the creek bed as well as plant activity and oxygen levels. pH levels measured are within the limits that Waterwatch identifies as healthy.
  3. Turbidity– the cloudiness of water – is caused by suspended particles that reduce the passage of light affecting aquatic plants and other living things. Major contributors include soil erosion and run-off from unsealed roads. Levels of turbidity measured at all sites are within the limits that Waterwatch identifies as healthy.
  4. Dissolved oxygen is essential for creatures with gills – not only fish, but the tiny creatures (macroinvertebrates) that populate waterways. Levels measured at the Augusta Street test site are slightly borderline, but within the limits that Waterwatch identifies as healthy.
  5. Phosphorus is released by rotting organic matter and is essential for plant growth. Runoff can carry agricultural and garden fertilisers containing phosphorus into waterways. Phosphorus levels measured at the Augusta Street testing site are within the limits that Waterwatch identifies as healthy.
  6. Macroinvertebrates are the tiny but visible insects, worms, snails, shrimps, water fleas and the like that are a key part of the food chain in waterways. The diversity and abundance of these creatures is an excellent indicator of stream health.
    Every six months BERG MM counts both numbers of species and numbers of macroinvertebrates at the Augusta Street testing site. Our testing indicates a healthy environment, though species are limited due to the salinity of the estuary environment.
CLICK HERE for more detailed information of these measures of water quality.

For more information on Waterwatch Victoria go to www.vic.waterwatch.org.au.


The Estuary Watch program

EstuaryWatch is a state-wide program run by Melbourne Water that enables volunteers to report regularly on the health of estuaries around the Victorian coastline.

Melbourne Water provides scientific instruments that EstuaryWatch volunteers use to measure temperature, acidity, turbidity and salinity. These are all important factors that determine the wellbeing of plants, birds and animals. By monitoring these indicators we can better understand how the estuary is coping with the natural challenge of the changing salt and fresh water mix and the negative impacts of nearby urban development.  Our aim is to provide evidence that will be used to better look after and care for the estuary today and for future generations.

The estuary is wonderfully dynamic, constantly changing according to rainfall, tides and winds.  Mostly a sandy barrier (known as the berm) holds back the water in the estuary, sometimes leading to minor flooding.  Occasionally the entrance opens, allowing the water from the Creek to rush into the bay, or for the bay water to rush into the estuary!

Our EstuaryWatch team tracks these changes regularly through the year, measuring water depth and taking photos on the ground and by drone.

Berg Mt Martha’s Estuary Watch data can be viewed on Melbourne Water’s Estuary Watch website.

The health of the Balcombe Estuary is measured monthly. See the report.

CLICK HERE to see a bird’s eye view of our estuary – drone photos and video taken 25th November 2018.

The Sedimentation Action Group

BERG Mt Martha is very concerned about the increasing sedimentation of the Balcombe Estuary.  Recent carbon dating estimated that the estuary may silt up completely in 50-80 years…or 2-3 generations.

Our Sedimentation Action Group meets monthly with the Mornington Peninsula Shire to discuss progress on a range of agreed actions which the Shire and Melbourne Water are taking to try to reduce or stop the sediment entering the Creek and estuary.

Most of the sediment comes from unmade roads.  Expert analysis shows that the main sources of sediment are the Hopetoun Creek, the Henley Avenue and the Augusta Street drains.

Solutions to the sediment include:

  • Revegetating ground as close as possible to the source of the sediment inflow
  • Using Gross Pollutant Traps to trap sediment before it reaches the Creek
  • Storing water (and sediment) in tanks under Ferrero ovals
  • Sealing unsealed roads with large inflows of storm water
  • Residents installing water traps to catch water at source
  • Improving drain designs to catch sediment and filter it slowly before it reaches the Creek

Better unsealed road maintenance procedures so roads do not erode so quickly

CLICK HERE to download Berg Mount Martha’s Save our Estuary brochure