Toby Inlet is a small estuary to the east of the Dunsborough town site. The Inlet has important ecological values providing a habitat for fish and freshwater crayfish, waterbirds and frogs and is highly valued by the local community for its environmental values and as a recreational area for locals and visiting tourists.
The Toby Inlet Catchment Group has been active in trying to improve water quality and advocate for better management of the Toby Inlet for many years. Improving the visual amenity and water quality of Toby Inlet is a priority of the catchment group, wider community and the Revitalising Geographe Waterways program. The City of Busselton is leading initiatives to improve water quality, health and management of the Toby Inlet.
The Toby Inlet catchment has a long history of clearing and drainage modification to enable productive farming and urban development. Flow into Toby Inlet has been substantially reduced by artificial drainage and as a result the Inlet is often cut off from the ocean. Drainage modifications and inputs of nutrients and sediments from the catchment have substantially altered the Inlet from its natural state leading to consequences for water quality and ecological health. In the past, Toby Inlet became stagnant and smelly in summer months with poor water quality due to seepage from septic tanks, reduced flows and sediments and nutrients off the catchment. Algal blooms were a regular occurrence during summer and adversely affected the ecological function and recreational use of the Inlet.
Reducing nutrients entering the Toby Inlet has been a priority of Revitalising Geographe Waterways. One key project is the Toby Inlet infill sewage program which connected 126 properties to deep sewage in the Quindalup area between Toby Inlet and Geographe Bay.
Improvements in water quality of the Inlet will be monitored by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation. Monitoring data has also contributed to the development of the Reconnecting Toby Inlet model that was used to investigate the feasibility of reconnecting Toby Inlet to the ocean to increase tidal flushing and improve water quality. As an outcome of the modelling, the Toby Inlet entrance to the ocean is kept permanently open by the City of Busselton, which is expected to flush at least 70% of the Inlet with seawater.
All of these programs provided information to support the future management of the Toby Inlet through the development of the Toby Inlet Water Management Plan. The City of Busselton led the development of the management plan that identified long-term management actions to improve water quality and health of the Inlet.
The local community were widely involved in the development of the Management Plan to ensure community ownership of the final plan. The Toby Inlet Community Reference Group, made up of community members, scientists and waterways managers, developed management objectives for the Toby Inlet, which were presented to the broader community for input.
Recent activities have included a study into the ‘Influence of bar opening on the fish fauna of Toby
Inlet’ (2018) which recorded a total of 12,438 fish from 17 species in the shallow, nearshore waters of Toby
Inlet across two sampling occasions. In 2020, a ‘Toby Inlet Sediment Study‘ was undertaken to identify priority areas for potential future sediment management within Toby Inlet.