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Dunsborough streams

The Dunsborough streams catchment includes (from north to south) Meelup, Dolugup, Dandatup and Dugalup brooks. All streams flow seasonally and discharge to Geographe Bay. Dolugup Brook occurs entirely within Meelup Regional Park (Class ‘A’ Reserve) and is one of the few waterways within the Geographe catchment that has a completely vegetated and relatively undisturbed catchment.

The Dunsborough waterways are of cultural significance to the Wardandi people and at least fifteen registered sites of significance occur within the catchment. The streams provide a diversity of habitat and food sources for native fauna and are known to support the Gilgie (Dandatup and Dugulup Brooks), Marron (Meelup Brook) and the Swan River goby (Meelup Brook). A River Action Plan developed by the Cape to Cape Catchment Group in 2006 outlines the characteristics, values, condition and management issues of the Dunsborough streams.

Learn more about River Action Plans

Land-use in the Catchment

Meelup Regional Park is located in the north-eastern part of the catchment. The park contains intact native vegetation with a few areas cleared for tourism purposes and fire control. Large urban lots with some areas of beef grazing occur in the western part of the catchment. In the south-western corner of the catchment is the town of Dunsborough, with surrounding land uses including urban residential areas, parks and golf courses, industrial and commercial businesses.

Image: Native vegetation and urban and rural living are the primary land-uses in the catchment.


The upper reaches of Dandatup and Dugulup streams flow through farmland and lifestyle properties before flowing through the Dunsborough townsite and discharging into Geographe Bay. The upper half of Meelup Brook flows through agricultural land and a vineyard before entering the Meelup Regional Park and discharging at Meelup Beach. Numerous on-stream dams are present on Dandatup and Meelup Brook. Dolugup Brook occurs entirely within Meelup Regional Park and discharges at Castle Rock beach. Since 2000, the mean annual flow for the Dunsborough streams catchment is 2.2GL/yr of a total of 203GL/yr for the waterways of the Geographe catchment.

Water Quality

All of the Dunsborough streams maintain very good water quality in terms of nitrogen and phosphorus. The Dunsborough streams catchment delivers comparatively low nutrient loads to Geographe Bay relative to other sub-catchments. The high phosphorus retention index (PRI) of soils in the catchment combined with good quality riparian vegetation and low stocking rates on agricultural land are likely reasons for the good water quality. Nutrients enter the waterways through diffuse urban residential sources with smaller quantities from beef grazing and septics.

Image: The nutrient loads in the Dunsborough Streams are primarily sourced from urban residential land-use, with smaller quantities from beef grazing and septics.

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation has been monitoring the water quality of the Dunsborough streams fortnightly since 2006. Data from 2008-2016 is presented in the table below (as data from 2008 represents data from 2006-2008). The data shows total nitrogen and phosphorous concentrations to be consistently below water quality targets.

The Dunsborough streams catchment is categorised as a ‘protection’ catchment as waterways are currently meeting both the nitrogen and phosphorus targets.

Image: Trends in nutrient concentrations

There is a strong decreasing trend in total nitrogen concentration and a weak decreasing trend in total phosphorus concentration in the Dunsborough streams catchment from 2006 to 2016.

Work in the Catchment

Since 2009 programs led by GeoCatch and partners have focussed on reducing nitrogen and phosphorus entering the Dunsborough waterways, and erosion control. Programs include working with farmers to reduce fertiliser use, working with businesses to reduce nutrients and pollutants leaving their site and undertaking re-vegetation and in-stream works in the riparian zone. These programs are likely to have contributed to continued low nutrient concentrations of these catchment waterways.

Key achievements by GeoCatch between 2009 and 2015 include:

  • The catchment-wide Bay OK community engagement program was developed to encourage practice change by urban gardeners.
  • Dunsborough Primary school was recognised as a ‘Bay Friendly School’.
  • Four Dunsborough businesses participated in the Bay friendly business program to reduce nutrients and pollutants leaving their sites.

Community volunteer groups such as Dunsborough Coast and Land Care and Meelup Regional Park Committee, in partnership with the City of Busselton, have been responsible for the co-ordination and implementation of a number of stream restoration programs. Key achievements between 2009 and 2015 include:

  • Installation of compensating basins on the Dandatup Brook.
  • Riffle and pond installation on the Dugalup Brook.
  • 1.5 ha riparian revegetation, installation of a gross pollutant trap and drainage upgrade in Dugalup catchment.
  • 0.5 ha riparian re-vegetation on the Dandatup Brook.
  • Rock armouring for erosion control and riparian planting on Dolugup Brook.
  • Riparian planting on lower section of Meelup Brook and installation of culverts where firebreaks cross the brook.

These actions have assisted with restoration of the riparian zone and increased sediment and nutrient attenuation by reducing flows.

Revitalising Geographe Waterways

For the next three years management programs will continue to focus on reducing nutrients entering the Abba River under the Revitalising Geographe Waterways program. Implementation of best practice agricultural fertiliser management and dairy effluent management and targeted riparian management are key goals for this ‘interven on’ catchment.

GeoCatch will work with at least two landholders to undertake fencing and revegetation on in the riparian zone. Monitoring the water quality of the Abba River will continue in the catchment Water Quality Monitoring Program and the Water Quality Improvement Plan will be reviewed and updated. GeoCatch will continue to work with the community to support sustainable behaviours and best management practices in fertiliser and effluent management. 

Image 1: Dandatup and Dugalup Brooks flow through the Dunsborough town-site, and have significant riparian restoration works on their lower reaches by local community groups

Image 2: Actions to reduce nutrients entering the Dunsborough streams will continue as part of Revitalising Geographe Waterways program.