Dear Members and Friends of Stormwater Queensland,

The new year has arrived and with it, a sense of optimism and excitement for the future.  The past few years have been difficult for many, as we have navigated the effects of a global pandemic and the unexpected consequences, which are far reaching and often surprising.

Since being sustained as President, I have had the opportunity to chat to many members of Stormwater Queensland, as well as professionals, advocates, researchers and citizens about their concerns and hopes for improving the environment and livability of their suburb and city where they live, work or recreate. Almost without exception, there has been a strong desire to help one another to solve challenging issues and find solutions to generational problems regarding stormwater.

For myself, I had a wonderful opportunity in the holidays to spend some time on Moreton Island (pictured above), located on the eastern side of Moreton Bay. The water was very clear, with no visible pollution or plastic waste in it. I reflected on the difference at the western side of Moreton Bay, near the mouth of the Brisbane River where the bay and river are a strong brown colour.

After a bit of research, I found an interesting book called ‘The Brisbane River’ written by the Australian Littoral Society Inc (1990), in association with the Queensland Museum.  The editors Davie, Stock and Choy completed qualitative research into the Brisbane River colour from laypersons observations in the early 1900’s. The research collated 49 quotes about river sections and water quality; below are samples dating 1910-1930’s:

  • Indooroopilly Bridge – “could see the bottom at 10 – 12 feet if moored”
  • Cannon Hill – River condition was “very clean and clear”
  • CBD, Customs House vicinity – “could see objects in about 16 ft of water”
  • Toowong – “Christmas holidays swimming in clear relatively sweet water…”
  • Dutton Park – “water was that clear that we used to have a competition…to find the penny first in amongst the nice clean boulders, diving down 10 feet”
  • Mouth of Bulimba Creek – “I remember a fellow…lost his false teeth. The water was clear enough that we could still find his teeth on the bottom at 15 feet”

It was sad to read later observations:

  • Lower Reaches – “I think the change in the river just crept up on us.  I think it was wartime that the river started to deteriorate.  The water started to get a brownish colour and it lost that good clear colour.  It used to be a very nice bluey-green colour”
  • The River – “The River got dirty after the war, 1945 onward as industry developed…The river was as clear as the surf at Coolangatta…It was green, like the ocean water”

I have thought often about this change in my local river.  The change has happened in my grandmother’s lifetime.  What can I do as a stormwater professional to see a change back to a clear river?  Are our current targets and policies effective? Could we set an ambitious target to reverse the conditions of our local creeks and rivers across Queensland?

I look forward to exploring this topic and many others of importance with you in 2023.  The committee will send out a questionnaire shortly, to find out your opinion on what should be the main focus for our association for 2023.  With an Olympic Games coming to south-east Queensland in 2032, perhaps the time is right to explore ways to bring our rivers back.

Kind Regards,

Mark R. Gibson
Stormwater Queensland President