Caring for our waterways and ensuring they are clean and healthy is everyone's responsibility. Sadly, the ever-expanding population around the lakes can have a negative impact on their water quality and ecological health.
Tuggerah Lakes has been through three phases of ecological health since European settlement.
Between the 1900s and 1960s, the lakes were famous for their clear waters and their abundance of aquatic plants and seagrass wrack. Unfortunately, back then, we didn't have a good understanding of how our actions could harm the natural environment. However, even though the population of the Central Coast was increasing exponentially and land clearing was rife, the negative impacts hadn't started to show just yet.
In the 1970s and 80s, the Central Coast witnessed another population surge, topped with very poor catchment and sewer management practices. It was not uncommon for sewage to flow directly into the waterways. These actions resulted in a sharp decline in the community's health, yet people still didn't realise that the estuary and the catchment were interlinked.
Throughout the 1980s and 90s, the local population continued to grow. Everyone wanted to live near the water. Consequently, the long-term impacts of poor catchment management started to show. During the Lakes Restoration Project, the foreshores were reclaimed by dredging up the bottom of the lakes, dumping it on the foreshore and capping it with sand. This is but one example of applying a solution to a problem that we didn't fully understand.
Still, there have been a few good outcomes of the era. Reticulation of sewage, which significantly reduced pollution, is one of them. And thanks to several research programs underway, we have started to understand the delicate nature of our waterways better.
The past two decades have seen many ambitious plans come to fruition, along with smarter construction practices, water-sensitive urban design and a move towards more sustainable catchment development. As with every endeavour, there is always room for progress. But the gradual improvement in our water quality is evidence that we are on the right track.
In a fight to keep pollution out of the lakes, Council and its partner organisations have been delivering a range of projects focused on controlling pollution at source. End-of-pipe or temporary, band-aid solutions cannot solve the water quality problems alone, so we try to stop pollution where it comes from - in the catchment.