The ACT government has begun work on three new wetlands in the Fyshwick catchment area with the aim to eventually see Canberrans return to regular swimming in Lake Burley Griffin.
The three new sites, to be constructed alongside the Jerrabomberra Creek in Narrabundah, Fyshwick and Kingston, will cost $4.6 million, $1.5 million, and $2.5 million respectively.
This represents a fraction of the total $93 million that has been designated for the ACT Healthy Waterways program - up to $85 million of which was invested by the federal government.
"It's a great opportunity to look at a different way of treating our waterways to ensure we have the best outcomes for Canberrans," Minister for the Environment Mick Gentleman said.
"What we'll see is much better habitat for our wildlife in the ACT and, of course, much cleaner water going into our lakes and tributaries."
The wetlands would help reduce the amount of sediment and pollution flowing in stormwater into the Jerrabomberra Creek and from there into Lake Burley Griffin.
The Fyshwick catchment was a "priority" waterway for the ACT government to address, as it also received agricultural and industrial run-off.
"Some of the catchment area comes from the urban side here at Narrabundah but of course the other parts come from a rural catchment in the creek, and also some of our industrial areas around Fyshwick," Mr Gentleman said.
The three new wetland sites, along with an additional nine other sites still under construction across the ACT, are scheduled for completion in June this year.
This will mean a total of 20 wetland sites across the territory, with more funding anticipated in the future.
"I remember as a kid ... regularly swimming in Lake Burley Griffin. That used to be a regular recreational activity and it seems that happens a lot less these days in a number of lakes and waterways," Senator Zed Seselja said.
"I envisage, and I'm sure [Mr Gentleman] would agree with this, that over time we would see a lot of people using the lake and a lot more people wanting to swim in the lake again. And [then we're] looking at all the flow on benefits when you attract people to a body of water like that."
Once the wetlands are completed, it will take an additional two years for plants at the new wetlands sites to grow tall enough for effective filtration.
The full benefits of the wetlands will likely not be felt in Lake Burley Griffin, and downstream in the Murrumbidgee River system - which has a blue-green algae bloom - until mid-2021, a project manager said.
Until then, Mr Seselja urged Canberrans to err on the side of caution when it came to swimming in local waterways.
"If you look at Lake Burley Griffin, it has been getting better ... but I don't think anyone would say it's exactly where it needs to be," he said.
Swimming in the wetlands is not encouraged.
Mr Gentleman said the wetlands would also help filter water downstream in the Murray-Darling Basin, in which thousands of cod recently died.
"We’ve been meeting with our Murray Darling Basin ministers on the efficiencies that ACT can produce and we’ve been patted on the back for the work that we’re doing here in the territory," Mr Gentleman said.
"I’ve also had a chat to David Littleproud, who’s the federal minister at the Murray-Darling Basin meetings, and indicated that we would like to do some more work if we can provide some better efficiencies from the ACT into the catchment. So there could be some more funding coming later on."
The three new wetlands will be constructed between Matina Street and the Monaro Highway in Narrabundah, between Eyre Street and the Jerrabomberra Wetlands in Kingston, and on Jerrabomberra Creek off Dairy Road in Fyshwick.