Community groups have praised the Commonwealth and ACT government's new education program, part of a $93 million project aimed at cleaning up the waterways in and around Canberra.
They say it's only one of many crucial steps towards eradicating water pollution in the region's lakes, expressing particular concern about Tuggeranong and Ginninderra.
With water monitoring revealing the health of most of the ACT's creeks and waterways is deteriorating, it is hoped the H2OK program will help slow and eventually stop the pollution of rubbish, cigarette butts, soil and leaves down drains.
It followed a 2016 University of Canberra survey of 4539 people by Dr Jacki Schirmer and Melinda Mylek, which found most Canberrans had poor understanding of what shouldn't be washed down stormwater drains but high concern for the ACT's water quality.
Only 38 per cent of residents knew flushing leaf litter or grass clippings down stormwater drains was a problem.
"People are very worried and they want to do more about the lakes," Ms Schirmer said.
ACT Environment Minister Mick Gentleman and federal ACT Senator Zed Seselja launched the program on Monday, with Mr Seselja hoping the program will encourage people to swim in Canberra's lakes again.
Mr Seselja said the federal government had provided $85 million with the ACT government contributing the rest.
Tuggeranong Community Council president Glenys Patulny said community education was key to improving waterways, but said more urgent action was needed to target blue-green algae outbreaks and get people swimming.
"I'm still very concerned about the blue-green algae in the lake," Ms Patulny said.
"I don't think the education and even all of the work they are doing with the Healthy Waterways is going to solve all of the problems. We need to keep up general maintenance and keep the pressure on [the government] to do these projects quickly because at the moment there are a lot of smells that don't encourage use of the lake."
Blue-green algae blooms have closed Lake Tuggeranong and Lake Ginninderra for swimming several times in recent years. Lake Tuggeranong was closed five times in 2016, up from once in 2015 and twice in 2014. It was closed once or twice in previous years, back to 2007.
Closures dating back to 2007 show Lake Ginninderra was shut off three times in 2016 due to 'high to extreme' blue-green algae levels, as well as once in 2015, 2012 and 2009.
Ginninderra Catchment Group coordinator Karissa Preuss said water quality in Lake Ginninderra improved slightly last year, likely as a result of boosted plant growth in the new Eastern Valley Way wetland section of the lake.
But she said the community could do more to maintain urban waterways.
"Nutrient loads can be reduced in numerous ways including washing cars in areas that do not drain into waterways, and reducing run off from gardens and autumn leaves entering the water systems," Ms Preuss said.
"Restoration works, such as plantings and other landcare activities also assist in improving water quality."
Data from Waterwatch in the Ginninderra Catchment Group, a volunteer-based group that regularly monitors waterways, ranked most of those in the Ginninderra Catchment rank as either poor or fair water quality.
Ms Preuss was concerned urbanisation was taking a toll on the waterways, with 35 per cent of Canberra's residents living in the Ginninderra catchment.
"Giralang pond is an important focus area for improving water quality in the Catchment and in Lake Ginninderra. The outflow from Giralang Ponds has high electrical conductivity, likely due to runoff from a highly urbanised catchment," she said.
"Higher upstream in Gungahlin, development is impacting on water quality as sediment loads from construction increase turbidity and nutrient loads and much of this flows down through Lake Ginninderra and on to the Murrumbidgee. Large amounts of rubbish are found in many areas of the catchment."e
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