The Estuary Health & Water Quality Report Card, published last week, has rated the water quality of Lake Illawarra as ‘very good’, underscoring the success of various government vegetation projects aimed at improving the region’s ecological health.

Out of the eleven sites tested, six earned a ‘very good’ water quality rating, while three secured a ‘good’ rating. The remaining two sites received ‘fair’ ratings, marking a substantial improvement on previous assessments.

Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery AM, in a Wollongong City Council report, expressed his satisfaction with the results and credited government planning and data collection efforts for the positive outcome.

“Rain washes nutrients and pollutants into our catchment. Last year, being one of the wettest years on record, we had only one site rate ‘very good’ for water quality. This year with the reduction in rainfall we’ve seen, we now have six,” Cr Bradbery said .

“That’s great news for the whole ecosystem of plants, animals and organisms that live in and around Lake Illawarra.

“Tracking shows the lake water is trending in the right direction. It also highlights though the importance of continuing to reduce nutrients and sediments coming into the lake. This includes actions such as stormwater treatment from new developments and management of riparian vegetation in the catchment.

Having ten years of robust data allows us to guide the programs and projects we undertake.”

One of the notable government initiatives contributing to this success is the planting of 20,000 native plants, including salt marshes and grasses. These plants stabilise the foreshore and act as natural filters, preventing nutrients from entering the water. This extensive lakeside restoration project spans 90 hectares across 19 sites and was launched under the Lake Illawarra Coastal Management Program 2020-2030, a collaboration between Wollongong City Council, Shellharbour City Council, and other key stakeholders.

The report also highlighted regular sampling at three sites to measure enterococci levels, a key indicator of water suitability for recreational activities.

“Pleasingly, all three sites within Lake Illawarra achieved higher compliance with the recreational water quality guidelines than last year,” Cr Bradbery said.

“That’s great news for those boating or fishing at the lake.”

For avid fisherman Spencer Markulic, the improvement in water quality is a welcome development.

“Over the years, I’ve witnessed remarkable improvements in water quality and the surrounding vegetation,” he said.

“This is crucial for fishermen, not just for recreational purposes, but for those who rely on fishing for their meals. Clean and healthy water means clean and healthy food for the people.”

Lake Illawarra is on a positive trajectory thanks to the support of local government projects and environmental initiatives. The ‘very good’ rating in the Estuary Health & Water Quality Report Card reflects a commitment to preserving the lake’s ecological integrity and ensuring a brighter future for all who enjoy its waters.