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Urban River Torrens Recovery Project

The River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari crosses the Adelaide Plains from the foothills to the sea and provides essential drainage and flood management to the Adelaide metropolitan area.

The river is also a community resource, with the Torrens Linear Park (which runs alongside the river through Adelaide) acting as a refuge for urban wildlife and pollinators, as well as offering peaceful recreation opportunities to the community.

Unfortunately, as the river flows through the metropolitan area, it is fed by stormwater runoff from the surrounding suburbs, as well as contaminants from urban areas, affecting the water quality. These impacts on the water quality caused a decline in native aquatic animals, and exotic trees were affecting the stability of river banks and obstructing flow.

In response to these issues, the River Torrens Recovery Project (now Urban River Torrens Recovery Project) commenced in 2014, targeting priority sites to improve water quality and ecosystem function in the river and the coastal waters where it enters the sea.

Through the ongoing commitment of the eight councils along the linear park, and the former Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges NRM Board (now Green Adelaide), the Urban River Torrens Recovery Project has pioneered a successful project of collaborative management that involved the broader community.

Key issues


The problem:

Before urbanisation, rainfall largely soaked into the ground, only running into creeks and rivers during heavy falls or when the ground was saturated. Today, rainfall runoff flows quickly across pavements, roads and carparks, taking with it pollutants such as oil, cigarette butts, plastic litter, dust, leaves and dog poo. Polluted stormwater flows directly to the nearest creek without being treated, carrying high levels of nutrients which can cause algal blooms and smother seagrass and reef systems, presenting the most significant threat to water quality in the River Torrens.

The solution:

Gross pollutant traps and water sensitive urban design structures – such as roadside raingardens – help to improve water quality by capturing leaf-litter, rubbish and sediment before they enter watercourses. Raingardens also help to filter pollutants from water.

Exotic trees

The problem:

Exotic trees impact on the quality of our waterways and the animals that live there. The autumn leaf drop from exotic trees increases nutrients in the water and lowers dissolved oxygen needed by aquatic animals, resulting in poor health and even death of fish and invertebrates. The roots of some exotic tree species can also contribute to a loss of river bed and bank stability, leading to expensive erosion problems.

The solution:

Removing invasive exotic trees and replacing them with locally indigenous plants improves water quality, bank stability, and the native habitat of Linear Park.

Other actions supported by the project include:

  • Weed control
  • Revegetation with native plants
  • Stabilising river banks
  • Reducing litter and pollutants from entering the river through the installation of gross pollutant traps
  • Removal of large volumes of the destructive European Carp

The success of the Urban River Torrens Recovery Project and local community support has seen it extended beyond its initial two years.

Everyone can help improve the water quality of our creeks, rivers and oceans

  • Keep run-off surfaces free of pollutants – bin your cigarette butts, clean up oil leaks, cut down on plastic usage, wash your car at a car wash or on a grassy area (not on the street) and remember that stormwater flows directly to the nearest creek and the water is not treated.
  • Get rid of invasive exotic plants in your garden.
  • Consider installing a raingarden.
  • Join a volunteer group to help care for the essential habitats for our native plants and animals.

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