Urrbrae Wetland

Urrbrae Wetland is a working and teaching wetland in the heart of the suburbs of Mitcham. Situated on the grounds of Urrbrae Agricultural High School in Netherby, Urrbrae Wetland is an example of what can be achieved when local and state governments, and the community work together.

In the early 1990s the City of Mitcham and Urrbrae Agricultural High School were independently investigating a wetland project in the Urrbrae area. Council needed to resolve a flooding problem along Cross Road, while the School wanted to stop frequent flooding on its farmland and broaden its environmental curriculum.

A joint working party set about preparing a concept plan for a stormwater detention basin that could be used as an educational facility. After a suitable proposal was agreed upon, designs were then developed, funding secured, and construction started in July 1996. Urrbrae Wetland was officially opened in April 1997 by the Premier John Olsen. Construction was funded by the State Government, former Patawalonga Catchment Water Management Board and Council.

How does it work?

Urrbrae Wetland has been designed as a stormwater detention basin to reduce the frequency of localised flooding for a 1 in 5 year flood event, yet it incorporates many characteristics of a wetland.

The quality of stormwater leaving the wetland is improved to some degree by removing litter and organic material through the trash racks and sediment in the ponds. Other pollutants ‘settle out’ of the water, while some are broken down by ultra-violet radiation from the sun. The figure below explains how the system works.

For more information on the Urrbrae Wetlands, please visit the Urrbrae Wetland Learning Centre site.

Stormwater Quality System

Schools are welcome to visit the Urrbrae Wetland by appointment. Learning experiences suited to a School’s curriculum are available, including water sustainability and local ecology. For more information please contact the Urrbrae Wetland Manager Ann Louise Breeding at the Urrbrae High School, 505 Fullarton Road, Netherby 5062, phone 8272 6010.

Alternatively, you can visit the Urrbrae Wetland Learning Centre website.

The work of the volunteer group ‘Friends of the Urrbrae Wetland' is an essential part of the Urrbrae Wetland. They meet every Tuesday from 8.30am to 12noon and work on maintenance, planting, watering, weed eradication, open days and guided tours.

Their work in caring for the wetland has created an extraordinary ambience about the wetland. They have turned a plant free, barren site into a wonderful indigenous, landscaped garden and seed bank as it might have been in 1836 prior to European settlement and land clearance.

The volunteers have also created a most relaxing and invigorating experience for the visitor and the surrounding suburbs.

For further information, contact the City of Mitcham on 8372 8888 or the Urrbrae Wetland Manager on 8272 6010.

Approximately 100 local native terrestrial and aquatic plant species have been planted to maximise diversity, habitat and serve as a resource (nursery) for other projects.

Over 90 bird species have been sighted, and four species of bats. Water based animals include four frog and over 50 macro invertebrate species, Murray River Rainbow fish, Mountain Galaxia and yabbies.

One of the landscaping aims at the Wetlands was to recreate a landscape as it might have been in 1836, prior to European settlement.

Since 1997, the wetland site has been vegetated by students and Friends of Urrbrae Wetland, using plants grown from seed or cuttings of local provenance. These have been collected under permit in the Mitcham foothills, Southern Adelaide Plains, Belair National Park and the Lower Sturt River.

Some of the species planted include: Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa), South Australian Blue Gum (Eucalyptus leucoxylon subsp leucoxylon), River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria pinosa), Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha), Kangaroo Thorn (Acacia paradoxa), Native Lilac (Hardenbergia violacea) and Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra).

In an aquatic environment, plants play a key role in reducing water velocity, removing nutrients, oxygenating water and providing habitat and food for fauna. Aquatic plants common to the wetland include the Common Reed (Phragmites australis) and other sedges and rushes.

Quick Facts

6,000+ visitors each year
$1.7 million - construction cost of Stages 1 and 2
$0.93 million - grants for construction costs of Stages 1 and 2

Trash rack collections:

2013/14 - 53 tonnes
2012/13 - 33 tonnes
2011/12 - 82 tonnes

Urrbrae Wetland - Cross Road Inlet with Trash Racks and Silt Trap

1 in 5 year event Flood Event - design parameter

Site Coverage - 4.5 hectares
Surface Water Area - 1.5 hectares
Catchment Area - 375 hectares

380 million litres of stormwater enters the wetland each year (long term average)
14.6 million litres - stormwater detention capacity
10 million litres – capacity of clay-lined, wetland pond (detention basin)
3 million litres – capacity of synthetic lined Farm Dam

2 stormwater inlets
2 sedimentation basins
1 detention basin

Jointly managed – City of Mitcham and Urrbrae Agricultural High School

Benefits of Urrbrae Wetland

  • Reduces the frequency of local flooding
  • Reduces pollutants and pathogens in stormwater entering the Patawalonga basin,
  • Research and education facility for the community
  • Habitat for local native animals and plants
  • Stormwater for irrigation

The wetland is visited by over 5,500 students from kindergarten to tertiary levels and over 1,500 people from many community and interest groups each year, who partake in a range of programs suited to individual needs.

For more information on tours, short visits and open days please contact the Urrbrae Wetland Manager Ann Louise Breeding at the Urrbrae High School, 505 Fullarton Road, Netherby 5062, phone 8272 6010. Alternatively, you can visit the Urrbrae Wetland Learning Centre website.

Finding the Wetland

The wetland is situated on the southern side of Cross Road about 500 metres east from Duthy Street and 500 metres west of Fullarton Road. Look for the large entrance sign and double gates.

Urrbrae Wetland Entrance Sign

A number of water reuse and research studies have been undertaken to utilise captured stormwater for irrigation at the School and surrounding areas.

The CSIRO has undertaken aquifer storage and recovery trails in the tightly packed sand aquifers beneath Urrbrae Wetland. Problems were encountered with low injection and recovery rates.

A report in 2010 identified the possibility of harvesting 167-182 million litres of water each year. Recommendations included further water treatment and modifications to the wetland facility, along with aquifer storage and recovery trials.

Urrbrae Wetlands CSIRO Research Centre to Filter Water

CSIRO research centre to filter the water ready for storage in the aquifer