The Yarra River is Melbourne's most important natural asset, and all Melburnians are dependent on it. It provides 70% of our piped water and its valley is world renowned for its vineyards and natural beauty. It is the centrepiece of many city cultural events and plays host to sports, recreational and nature-based activities.
The Yarra rises east of Melbourne near Mt Baw Baw and flows 240 km to Port Phillip Bay and catches the flow from its 24 tributaries. Its environs are not just our home, they are home for hundreds of different plants and animals, including platypus, koalas, lyrebirds and native fish. However, the impact of our large city is putting the Yarra's health under stress. Most of the river's water is taken to supply our homes and industry, and river flows are now dangerously low. In 2008, they were down to just 11% of their average natural rate. The Yarra is polluted with litter and a cocktail of urban wastes and its water quality falls well short of legal standards. The Yarra's wetlands, floodplains and banks are damaged by weeds, and continue to shrink from the pressure of urban growth. Many wildlife species are now endangered. State Government research shows that only 36% of the Yarra and tributaries are in good condition.