Swan River

Under Pressure

"Who hears the rippling of rivers will not utterly despair of anything." - Henry David Thoreau 

The Swan and Canning rivers flow through the heart of metropolitan Perth.

The Swan River (Derbal Yerrigan) is 72 kilometres long and the Canning River (Djarlgarra or Dyarlgarro) is 110 kilometres long. Together, these two rivers and their tributaries drain a catchment area of 2,090 square kilometres.

The lower reaches of the Swan and Canning rivers form an estuary created by geological conditions more than 10,000 years ago.

The Swan River was mostly brackish before settlers removed the Fremantle bar in the late 1800s and dredged the large flood delta nearby.

The Swan and Canning rivers are now a permanently open estuary that changes from fresh/brackish conditions in winter and spring, to salty conditions during summer and autumn.

The Swan and Canning Rivers are under threat from development pressure, climate change, dredging and a range of other sources.

The declining ecological health of the river can be seen in the problems with the water quality, which include nurtrient and organic loading, algal blooms, low oxygen levels and contaminants from urban, farming and industrial drainage.

Evidence of the stress the ecological system is under can be seen in recent fish kills, changes in aquatic communities, dolphin deaths and the loss of habitat for plants and animals.

Foreshore degradation is also on ongoing problem, with the negative impact of boat wash, foreshore erosion, loss of shoreline vegetation and damage to trees.

The constant pressure from development is also a continuing threat.

Swan River

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The Greens (WA) want:

  • management of the Swan River to be science-based, evidence-driven and based on the precautionary principle,
  • adequate resourcing for Swan River protection measures such as fertiliser run-off, algae blooms and water quality analysis,
  • a full assessment of the wetlands and rivers of Western Australia, with those considered of international significance under the Ramsar Convention to be immediately protected,
  • a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of reserves for the protection of wetland and river communities,
  • protection of the remaining rivers wetlands on the Swan Coastal Plain.


Authorised by Lynn MacLaren © 2017

Hon Lynn MacLaren MLC - Member for South Metropolitan Region Legislative Council, Parliament of Western Australia