Sponge city comes to Brisbane at Cannery Creek

Cannery Creek will become a sponge city and a natural flow for sewage, filtering out wastewater

The development of a sponge city network has commenced in suburban Brisbane. The local community has taken a role in opting for a nature-based wetland for treating overflow water.

Urban Utilities in Southeast Queensland will invest more than $65 million in a nature-based project to help manage the impacts of extreme weather on the wastewater network.

Construction of the Cannery Creek Sewer Upgrade will start in July and involve creating a new wetland to filter naturally, as seen in sponge city concepts around the world. It has also been designed to control wet weather flows from the wastewater network more effectively. This will help protect nearby properties and deliver liveability and environmental benefits.

The project is unique as residents shaped the concept over three years as part of a Community Planning Team. They developed an integrated approach to achieve community, environmental and operational outcomes through a nature-based solution.

Urban Utilities Executive Leader Integrated Solutions, Chris Bulloch, said nature-based solutions such as the Cannery Creek Sewer Upgrade were ideal for managing the intense rainfall that can occur in sub-tropical Brisbane.

“Northgate and Banyo are low-lying areas of Brisbane. It means the local wastewater network can become inundated with stormwater during extreme weather and cause wet weather overflows. On occasion, this can sometimes impact private properties,” he said.

“While this part of our network can cater for growth, the impact of climate change means we’re likely to experience more frequent and intense rainfall. We need to think innovatively about how we deal with water management.”

“Urban Utilities… has devised a better approach for the community and environment by working with the residents. It is also more cost-effective than traditional engineering solutions.”

Sponge city integrates wetlands and natural environment

The project will combine green and traditional infrastructure, including building a wet weather pump station and a 2km pipeline. They will divert flows to a new wetland, away from private properties, where the sponge city concept will absorb the water into its natural environment.

“During wet weather, the diluted wastewater will be screened and then diverted along the underground pipeline to a new wetland and bioretention basins. These basins will act like nature’s filter, trapping sediment and absorbing nutrients,” Bulloch said.

He said that Cannery Creek is fed by stormwater. Urban Utilities will rehabilitate it by creating a series of sediment basins to manage and filter flows, to protect downstream waterways and Moreton Bay from the impacts of soil and sediment.

The design integrates several community aspirations, including beautifying the creek banks and surrounding area. It will also provide shared paths and seating, to help transform Cannery Creek and provide an area for the community to enjoy.

Bulloch thanked the community for their input and effort in designing the project plan.

“We formed a Community Planning Team in 2019, which saw residents collaborate with planners and engineers. They considered several options over many workshops and site visits,” he said. “The community-led design process played a key role in the final concept for the project. We’ll continue to keep the CPT updated as the project progresses. We’d also like to thank Brisbane City Council, the Queensland Government and the many other agencies and organisations engaged and contributed to this project so far.”

An Urban Utilities project team is working alongside delivery partner Fulton Hogan Utilities on the nature-based solution at Cannery Creek. Construction is expected to be completed in 2024.

Urban Utilities is a water distributor/retailer that supplies drinking water, recycled water and sewage services to more than 1.5 million people across Southeast Queensland.

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