You asked – we listened. There’s been a lot of rain recently causing the River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari to look a little trashy. Read on to find out why, what’s being done – plus how you can help.

Trash racks at Felixstow Reserve.
A full trash rack.

Rainwater run-off (or stormwater) is rain that runs off roofs, driveways, roads and any other hard surfaces, and moves via stormwater pipes to natural waterways like rivers, creeks and the sea.

This stops urban Adelaide from flooding, but also causes rubbish and other pollutants picked up along the way to find its way into places like the River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari.

Local councils undertake regular clean-ups of the river, particularly after heavy rain events, to help keep the river healthy.

Here’s answers to your top questions about trash in the Torrens:

What’s being done to stop rubbish getting into the River Torrens?

Lots is being done to reduce the amount of litter and pollutant in the river. This includes:

8 trash racks along the Torrens and connected waterways

Also, formally known as ‘gross pollutant traps’ these structures have nets that trap rubbish build-up for disposal out of the system.

These trash racks aren’t just on the Torrens but also the creeks that feed into it. You can see net-style trash racks at First Creek at the Botanic Gardens in the city, and across Fourth Creek in Felixstow, just before it enters the river.

A trash rack at Felixstow, along the River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari.
A trash rack helping keep the River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari clean. Photo: Morgan Sette.
2 sediment basins and 2 floating booms along the Torrens

Floating booms and sedimentation basins are installed over waterways across Adelaide.

If you imagine a bendy boom gate suspended on water, that should give you a pretty good idea of what a floating boom looks like.

On the other hand, a sediment basin is more like a pond specifically designed to catch smaller pollutants (think: the dregs of pollutants, like soil that shouldn’t be in the river).

Each year these traps, along with the trash racks, collect enough leaves, twigs, sediment and rubbish to cover the playing field at Adelaide Oval.

Full trash racks at First Creek.
Full trash racks at First Creek.

Weed removal and revegetation

To improve the health of the river, we’ve worked with local councils, government agencies and the community on a range of projects over the last 20 years, both along the river and across the broader catchment that feeds into it.

For example, more than a million dollars has been spent as part of the River Torrens Recovery Project removing woody weeds and the pest fish species: European carp, while also revegetating the banks of the river. This project is an ongoing collaborative effort.

Continued removal of weeds and revegetation with native species along the River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari helps purify water.

Remember: In spots where there are more plants you’ll likely see more leaves on and around the river. While this might make the river look more polluted, this does indicate a healthier river system.

A stretch of the River Torrens at Lockleys.
Revegetation along the River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari at Lockleys. Photo: Morgan Sette.

What is the problem with the River Torrens?

The River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari is actually pretty healthy these days.

Over the past couple of decades, councils, government, Kaurna and the community have worked together to transform the river through weed removal, revegetation, stabilising riverbanks, stormwater management and removing large volumes of pesky European carp.

Work in waterways that connect to the River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari, such as St Peters Billabong, plus the creation of wetlands on First, Second and Fourth Creeks – which all link in to the river – have also helped improve water quality.

St Peters Billabong near the River Torrens.
St Peters Billabong. Photo: Morgan Sette.

The Breakout Creek redevelopment is steadily transforming a stretch of river from an artificial channel into a more natural flowing and healthy creek too.

Signs that the river has improved include diverse plant life, more birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and water bugs, which all indicate water health.

Our regular fish monitoring along the length of the river has shown self-sustaining populations of rare native fish such as freshwater catfish, lampreys and eels, and our peer-reviewed scoping study even showed that habitat quality is favourable for release of platypus.

Of course, we will continue to improve and maintain the river ongoingly, alongside our partners and the community.

A stretch of the River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari at Felixstow.
The River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari at Felixstow. Photo: Morgan Sette.

How can I help?

Stopping rubbish and other pollutants before they reach our waterways is the key to a healthy and clean river – and everyone can play a part in this.

Soaps, chemicals and other home and garden items can negatively impact plants, animals and water quality. Here’s how to keep pollutants like these out of our waterways:

  • Avoid or minimise the use of fertilisers, herbicides, and pesticides.
  • Wash your car or equipment on a grassy or gravel area to avoid soaps (even the biodegradable ones) ending up in the gutter.
  • Cover any exposed piles of construction material or soil.
  • Collect any fallen leaves and put them in the green bin.
  • Pick up rubbish on the street and in parks where safe to do so.
  • Choose local native species for your garden, as they naturally filter water.

If you have a waterway on or near your property, there are more ways you can help keep our waterways clean too.

A bridge over the River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari.

Learn more about the River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari

Get to know Adelaide’s most prominent river, which is more than 460 times the length of Adelaide Oval and the soul of our city.

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