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1. Not trees, but too amazing to ignore….. a 21-year-old man out with some friends after dark at Mount Tabor Reservoir in Portland USA has cost the community more than $35,500 & the loss of  8 million gallons of drinking water.  Why? Because he urinated into the reservoir & the Portland Water Bureau says the reservoir must be drained, cleaned & then refilled.  That’s 30,283,294 litres (or 128,000,000 cups) of drinking water thrown away because of a wee.  All I could think of while reading this story was the quality & lack of drinking water in third world countries.  A representative from the Portland Water Bureau said that they removed dead ducks & dead chipmunks from the Mount Tabor Reservoir almost daily, but human urine ……. it’s the “yuck factor.”

2. Environmental groups, Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity & Friends of the River in Sacramento filed a lawsuit against the US Army Corps of Engineers in a Californian Federal Court to prevent millions of trees being chopped down along California’s Central Valley levees (as you do in this age of global warming).  The US Army wants to remove all vegetation on & 15 feet on either side of levees because trees might fall during storms & affect levee sections & tree roots “provide a path for water to seep through levees.” The environmental groups say that levee vegetation is the last 5% percent of the riparian forest & provides essential habitat for endangered fish & birds.

3.  Research by Chloe Smith, author of ‘London: Garden City?’ has found that back gardens are being lost at the rate of 875 acres per year to development & a preference for hard surfaces like patios & paving.  This is having a huge impact on urban wildlife & biodiversity. More hard surfaces will be increasing the urban heat island effect & creating more stormwater to manage.

Winter Poplars Cooks River

4.  This is a fascinating article about a community campaign to save Wutong trees in Nanjing China. Wutongs are the London plane tree (Platanus x acerifolia) & regarded as a ‘super-tree’ because they grow very tall (15 storeys high) & manage to thrive in Nanjing’s extreme air pollution & heat.  20,000 trees were planted in 1928-1929 & more in 1949. The trees give the city of Nanjing its look & keep the residents cool.  More than 3,000 trees were chopped down in 1993 & another 200 in 2006. Now the authorities want to remove more than 1,000 trees resulting in a community campaign to stop the trees removal.  People on the Chinese version of Twitter posted more than 10,000 messages calling for the trees to be saved. Celebrities & the media also got involved. Hundreds of people protested outside the city library. The outcome is that 318 trees will be chopped down instead of 1,000. A great win for people power in a country where such action can be dangerous.

5.  Trees for Houston are calling for the community to water the street trees during their prolonged drought fearing that millions of trees could die through lack of water.  Trees for Houston planted 42,000 trees during the 2010-2011 planting season.

6.  A rare Goat Horn tree, native to China, which was brought to Ireland in 1908 by plant collector E.H. Wilson has flowered for the first time. There are only 2 Goat Horn trees in Ireland. The other tree has flowered on a few occasions.

7.  Research in Lausanne Switzerland has found that cell phones are the cause of declining bee populations around the world. Apparently the cell phone signals cause the bees to become lost & disoriented.  Bee populations have dropped by 50% in the US & the UK since 1980. Without bees to pollinate our food sources, we humans are in real trouble.

Lilly Pilly berries

Birds on Fatima Island in the Cooks River

I downloaded the report because there was interest in the issue. The first thing that struck me was the cover page. It is a photo of the banks of the Cooks River probably taken early last century, but that’s just a guess.  The environment looks unbelievably bad, not what I expected at all. I had a vision of a pristine river with natural banks & trees everywhere. Instead there is a very large denuded area about the size of Steele Park with 4 tall trees, 1 dead & another on its way out.  There are around 16 newly planted saplings in the photograph with what appears to be a team of men doing some work chopping away sandstone from an area about 20 metres from the bank. The bank itself is ‘natural’ with not a mangrove to be seen. Pity copyright prevents me from including the photo.

This photo shows that Marrickville Council have done enormous restoration & re-vegetation work on the Cooks River, its bank & the public space alongside the riverbank which I guess was precisely what they intended.

On to the report itself – First up is an aspiration of what the future could be like (words in bold are my emphasis) –

“In 2050….. Our people-friendly streets & roads are clean & there are minimal hard surfaces. Streetscapes, roads & roofs are ecosystems, available for local food production. Stormwater treatment systems are also habitat for frogs, insects and bandicoots. Transport is now completely green, there are few cars & people mostly walk & cycle.  Our community revolves around shared green spaces that are self-sufficient with water. Parks have wetlands & forest reservations. We swim in Dibble Avenue Waterhole & the Cooks River waterways that are also habitat for wildlife. The Cooks River & its foreshores are clean, in a natural state & can be used for recreation & fishing.”

Now wouldn’t that be amazing & something wonderful to pass on to future generations.

Marrickville Council has so far created 3 Subcatchment Management Plans: Illawarra Road Subcatchment Marrickville South, Tennyson Street Subcatchment Dulwich Hill & now Riverside Crescent Subcatchment in Marrickville South.  There are 21 subcatchment areas in Marrickville LGA, so it’s big job.

I found the Riverside Crescent Subcatchment Management Plan exciting for a number of reasons.

  • The goals are big, but achievable.
  • Council intends to work with the community.
  • Private property issues with stormwater & the creation of permeable surfaces are also to be addressed.
  • Council expects measurable improvement by 2019.

Cooks River

Approximately 60% of the Riverside Catchment is impervious surface. Of that 60%, roads make up 34% with roofs, driveways & carparks making up the remaining 66%.

From the Report – “The implemention of the Riverside Crescent Subcatchment Management Plan can only happen if citizens make practical changes on their properties. (my emphasis)

The idea of “depaving” is gathering momentum in the USA, especially in Portland, Chicago & Berkeley. With the permission of a landowner, paved areas are removed & replaced with vegetated areas. In Portland, a community organisation called has led depaving projects in private backyards, school yards & parking lots.” (Portland has done some incredibly innovative & dynamic things regarding street trees, verges, kerbs & the community is heavily involved. I would love to visit & see for myself.)

As with ‘green laneways,’ the only way to stop up to 85% of rainwater becoming stormwater & ending up in our drains & then eventually into the small creeks in the LGA, the Cooks River or the ocean is by removing as many of the impermeable surfaces as we can. Making surfaces permeable

A section of fantastic restoration work on the bank of the Cooks River at Ewen Park

allows water to go where it should, into the ground or into rainwater storage tanks for use in & around the home. Once rainwater enters the ground, it fills the groundwater & travels through the natural causeways through the ground to reach creeks, the ocean or the Cooks River. The water is by then, cleaned of pollutants. Council isn’t kidding when they say they are going to need to co-operation of the community.

Last week the Australian New Zealand Climate Forum released figures showing that Sydney is already 0.65C hotter than Newcastle. This may not seem like much, but a global temperature rise of just 2 degrees is thought to be catastrophic & result in major problems with food production, water, rising sea levels, 30% animal & plant extinction, weather patterns, floods, drought, & unsustainable living conditions for people.

The heat island effect is causing the heat stored in our many hard surfaces to remain during the night & this makes for one very hot Sydney.  We have already noticed significant changes over the last 3-4 years & unless we do something about this soon, Sydney is only going to get hotter.

Stamped cement driveways will be a thing of the past because we will eventually choose to not live with the heat stored on our property.  Hopefully Council’s Subcatchment Plan will enthuse people to remove theirs & install a permeable driveway instead. If Marrickville Council are successful in encouraging community co-operation & participation, there will be huge changes in the way the community views the environment in terms of water, trees, verges, litter & dumping.

Dibble Avenue Waterhole - this has the potential to be amazing

Dibble Avenue Waterhole is also targeted in the Plan. According to Council’s Report, the historic & potentially very beautiful Waterhole that is fed from direct rainfall, groundwater & stormwater runoff from adjacent properties has “high concentrations of heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, copper, mercury, nickel, lead & zinc. These exceed guidelines’ values & pose an ecological risk.   ….up to 25 species of birds including several important migratory & wetland birds, such as the Eastern Curlew. Chestnut Teals, Dusky Moorhens & Australian White Ibis, have been observed most recently. Long finned eels, dwarf flathead gudgeon & mosquito fish have also been recorded.”

I am really happy that Council is doing this kind of work, because not only will it improve our environment in terms of general cleanliness & a cleaner river that we may one day be able to swim in, it will also increase biodiversity by offering homes & food for urban wildlife.  It will also be tackling global warming & the lessening the impact of climate change.  Okay, it’s a small scale, but hopefully all the Councils in Sydney & across Australia will do the same or similar & this process is repeated across the world.  We have to clean up our own back yard.

One very small thing we can do right now is stop buying bottled water or stop throwing plastic bottles away as litter. In all my walks along the Cooks River, the most common litter I see in the river, along the banks & in stormwater catchment drains are plastic water bottles. Some of them can travel to the Cooks River through the stormwater drains from as far as Newtown. Just making a change here will lessen the pollution load in the Cooks River.  It’s Marrickvlle LGA’s little piece of paradise & it can be so much better.

There is much more in the Riverside Crescent Subcatchment Management Plan. For those of you who are interested, it can be downloaded here (6.5MB) –

Cooks River with Tempe railway bridge & the bridge at the Princes Highway in the distance





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