Indicators

Eastern grey kangaroos fighting. Source: Ryan Colley

The 2019 ACT State of the Environment report assesses 26 indicators across 7 themes. The indicators address specific environmental issues for a range of natural and sustainability issues in the ACT.

Climate change

CC1: Climate trends

Climate change is having a significant impact on the ACT, with clear evidence of a warming climate and increased occurrence of heat days. Rainfall is variable, but most recent years have been drier than average. Projections suggest a worsening climate with hotter temperatures and decreased rainfall.

Condition & trend
  • Trending arrow Poor
  • Trending arrow Fair
  • Trending arrow Good
Data quality
High
CC2: Impacts of climate change

Climate is impacting on the ACT’s community, economy and the natural environment. Observed changes include reduced inflows to water storages, increased tree mortality, greater fire danger, and more algal blooms in Canberra’s lakes.

Condition & trend
  • Trending arrow Poor
  • Trending arrow Fair
  • Trending arrow Good
Data quality
Moderate
CC3: Greenhouse gas emissions

By 2020, emissions from electricity generation will fall to zero and the ACT will meet the legislated target for total emissions. Transport will contribute over 60% of ACT’s emissions after 2020 and will become the main focus for future reductions. However, transport emissions increased by 13% between 2012–13 and 2017–18 and will represent a significant challenge in the future. The phasing out of natural gas will also be important. Per capita greenhouse gas emissions were just over 8 tonnes in 2017–18, a decrease of around 24% from 2012–13.

Condition & trend
  • Trending arrow Poor
  • Trending arrow Fair
  • Trending arrow Good
Data quality
High
Indicator assessment legend
Condition
  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is healthy across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have negligible impact on environmental condition/human health.

  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is neither positive or negative and may be variable across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have limited impact on environmental condition/human health.

  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is under significant stress, OR pressure likely to have significant impact on environmental condition/ human health.

  • Poor
  • Unknown
  • Good

Data is insufficient to make an assessment of status and trends.

Trend
Trending arrow

Improving

Trending arrow

Deteriorating

Stable

?

Unclear

Data quality
High

Adequate high-quality evidence and high level of consensus

Moderate

Limited evidence or limited consensus

Low

Evidence and consensus too low to make an assessment

N/A

Assessments of status, trends and data quality are not appropriate for the indicator

Human settlements

HS1: ACT’s ecological footprint

The ACT’s ecological footprint is over 9 times the size of the land area of the ACT, showing that current resource use is unsustainable. Although the ecological footprint is decreasing over time, particularly with the growth in renewable electricity, significant further cuts are required. Households are responsible for 70% of the ACT’s footprint; consequently, decreases in community resource consumption will greatly reduce both the ecological and carbon footprints for the ACT.

Condition & trend
  • Trending arrow Poor
  • Trending arrow Fair
  • Trending arrow Good
Data quality
High
HS2: energy consumption and generation

Due to lack of data, this assessment is limited to electricity consumption and generation. ACT’s electricity consumption has remained stable, despite population growth, reflecting an ongoing decline in per capita usage. The share of renewable electricity generation has increased significantly and is forecast to reach 100% in 2020.

Condition & trend
  • Trending arrow Poor
  • Trending arrow Fair
  • Trending arrow Good
Data quality
High
Condition & trend
  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good
Data quality
HS3: Solid waste generation and management

The lack of comprehensive and consistent waste data, and high annual variations in waste produced, makes it difficult to assess the status of waste in the ACT. There are no apparent trends indicating long-term changes in the total amount of waste generated, recovered or landfilled. However, the annual resource recovery rate is generally good at around 70% to 75% of the total waste generated, although this has not improved over the last 10 years. Municipal solid waste accounts for the highest proportion of waste sent to landfill and its generation appears to be stable despite the annual population increase in the ACT.

Condition & trend
  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good
Data quality
Moderate
HS4: Transport

The ACT community maintains a high dependence on cars for transport with the number of registered vehicles and their usage increasing. Cars are used for around 80% of all trips undertaken including commuting to work. Public transport, cycling and walking only represent 16% of all travel to work, although public transport use has increased over recent years. Car use contributes to air pollution and greenhouse gases, and has significantly increased road congestion in the ACT. Only 1% of vehicles in the ACT are electric or hybrid.

Condition & trend
  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good
Data quality
High
HS5: Water resources

CT’s water resources continue to be affected by a long-term period of mostly dry conditions. In 2018–19, total inflows to the ACT’s 4 drinking supply reservoirs was 32 gigalitres, the lowest since records began in 1912, and 86% below the long-term average. At the end of June 2019, the ACT’s 4 reservoirs were holding just 57% of the total ACT storage capacity. Over the past 10 years, only 12–17% of the total wastewater produced is recycled in the ACT.

Condition & trend
  • Trending arrow Poor
  • Trending arrow Fair
  • Trending arrow Good
Data quality
High
HS6: Water consumption

The ACT and Queanbeyan’s total water consumption has remained fairly consistent since 2012–13 at around 50,000 megalitres annually despite population growth. Between 2001–02 and 2017–18, residential per capita water use dropped from 124 kilolitres per year to 78 kilolitres litres per year, a decrease of around 37%. Residential supply is responsible for most of the water use in the ACT, accounting for around 60% of the total supplied annually.

Condition & trend
  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good
Data quality
High
Indicator assessment legend
Condition
  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is healthy across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have negligible impact on environmental condition/human health.

  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is neither positive or negative and may be variable across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have limited impact on environmental condition/human health.

  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is under significant stress, OR pressure likely to have significant impact on environmental condition/ human health.

  • Poor
  • Unknown
  • Good

Data is insufficient to make an assessment of status and trends.

Trend
Trending arrow

Improving

Trending arrow

Deteriorating

Stable

?

Unclear

Data quality
High

Adequate high-quality evidence and high level of consensus

Moderate

Limited evidence or limited consensus

Low

Evidence and consensus too low to make an assessment

N/A

Assessments of status, trends and data quality are not appropriate for the indicator

Air

A1: Compliance with air quality standards

With the exception of particulate matter (PM2.5) air quality levels were compliant with the with National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure standards. PM2.5 remains a concern for the Tuggeranong Valley, particularly given the current consensus that there is no safe concentration of particles for sensitive people. Smoke from wood heaters is the main cause of PM2.5 exceedances in the ACT.

Condition & trend
  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good
Data quality
High
A2: Health impacts of air pollution

There is currently no data available on the impacts of air pollution on human health in the ACT, nor the associated costs to the health system and the economy. Current expert and research consensus suggests that air pollution, even at concentrations below the current air quality standards, is associated with adverse health effects.

Condition & trend
  • ? Poor
  • ? Unknown
  • ? Good
Data quality
Low
A3: emissions of major air pollutants

Data on the sources and emissions of diffuse source air pollution, which make up the majority of emissions in the ACT, has not been updated since 1999. In the absence of current data it is not possible to assess changes in air pollution emissions over the reporting period. The ACT’s annual monitoring and reporting activities for point source (industry) emissions complied with the National Environment Protection National Pollutant Inventory Measure over the reporting period.

Condition & trend
  • ? Poor
  • ? Unknown
  • ? Good
Data quality
Low
A4: Amenity

Over the 2017–18 and 2018–19 periods, the EPA received 5,562 environmental complaints. Concerns about noise were responsible for 80% of all complaints and is clearly a significant issue for the ACT community. Amplified noise was the source of most noise complaints. Air pollution received the second highest number of complaints (13%), with smoke the source of most complaints. With only 2 years of data available, it is not possible to assess trends over the reporting period.

Condition & trend
  • ? Poor
  • ? Unknown
  • ? Good
Data quality
Low
Indicator assessment legend
Condition
  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is healthy across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have negligible impact on environmental condition/human health.

  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is neither positive or negative and may be variable across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have limited impact on environmental condition/human health.

  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is under significant stress, OR pressure likely to have significant impact on environmental condition/ human health.

  • Poor
  • Unknown
  • Good

Data is insufficient to make an assessment of status and trends.

Trend
Trending arrow

Improving

Trending arrow

Deteriorating

Stable

?

Unclear

Data quality
High

Adequate high-quality evidence and high level of consensus

Moderate

Limited evidence or limited consensus

Low

Evidence and consensus too low to make an assessment

N/A

Assessments of status, trends and data quality are not appropriate for the indicator

Land

L1: Land use change

Over the reporting period, it was not possible to determine changes in the area of urban and rural lands. However, any changes are estimated to be small. Although nearly 75% of ACT Government land is zoned for natural ecosystems and greenspace, urban expansion continues to be an environmental challenge for the ACT. To minimise urban growth, the proportion of medium and high-density housing is increasing. The rates of infill development are improving with all years from 2015–16 meeting (or close to meeting) the 70% infill target.

Condition & trend
  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good
Data quality
Moderate
L2: Land health

There is a general lack of knowledge about land health in the ACT, both for long-term changes and current conditions. This lack of information does not enable an assessment of land and soil health and remains a critical gap in our understanding of environmental condition.

Condition & trend
  • ? Poor
  • ? Unknown
  • ? Good
Data quality
Low
Indicator assessment legend
Condition
  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is healthy across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have negligible impact on environmental condition/human health.

  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is neither positive or negative and may be variable across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have limited impact on environmental condition/human health.

  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is under significant stress, OR pressure likely to have significant impact on environmental condition/ human health.

  • Poor
  • Unknown
  • Good

Data is insufficient to make an assessment of status and trends.

Trend
Trending arrow

Improving

Trending arrow

Deteriorating

Stable

?

Unclear

Data quality
High

Adequate high-quality evidence and high level of consensus

Moderate

Limited evidence or limited consensus

Low

Evidence and consensus too low to make an assessment

N/A

Assessments of status, trends and data quality are not appropriate for the indicator

Biodiversity

B1: Threatened species and ecological communities

As at 2019, there were 7 critically endangered species, 18 endangered species, 26 vulnerable species and one regionally conservation dependent species in the ACT. Over the reporting period (2015–16 to 2018–19), 17 additional species were listed as threatened and 7 species were transferred to critically endangered to align with their Commonwealth status. There are 3 ecological communities classed as endangered, with High Country Bogs and Associated Fens added during the reporting period. In addition, ‘the loss of mature native trees (including hollow-bearing trees) and a lack of recruitment’ was listed as a key threatening process. While changes in listings do not necessarily represent a decline, it is clear that the future of some species and communities in the ACT are threatened without management intervention.

Condition & trend
  • ? Poor
  • ? Fair
  • ? Good
Data quality
High
B2a: Extent of conservation areas

Extent: Conservation areas protect 60% of the total ACT area and continue to increase as environmental offsets are added to the Canberra Nature Park network.

Condition & trend
  • Trending arrow Poor
  • Trending arrow Fair
  • Trending arrow Good
Data quality
High
B2b: Condition of conservation areas

Condition: At the time of reporting, it was not possible to determine the condition of conservation areas in the ACT. It is also not currently possible to assess whether offsets have ensured no net loss of biodiversity as a result of land development. However, assessments for offsets will likely take many years. Recently initiated monitoring programs will greatly improve condition knowledge in the future.

Condition & trend
  • ? Poor
  • ? Unknown
  • ? Good
Data quality
Low
B3: Representation of threatened species and ecological communities in conservation areas

While many of the ACT’s threatened species and ecological communities are well represented in conservation areas, some flora and fauna species and ecological communities remain poorly represented. This is particularly the case for Natural Temperate Grassland and Yellow Box/Red Gum Grassy Woodland. For species with large proportions of non-reserved habitat, this is due to their dependence on grassland and woodland habitats, which are not as well protected in conservation areas as other ecosystems (such as forests).

Condition & trend
  • Trending arrow Poor
  • Trending arrow Fair
  • Trending arrow Good
Data quality
Moderate
B4a: Extent of native vegetation

Extent: Due to the large area of conservation reserves, the ACT has extensive areas of native vegetation. Any recent native vegetation losses are estimated to be small and mainly due to changes in land use from urban development. There have also been substantial revegetation efforts to restore habitat and connectivity.

Condition & trend
  • Trending arrow Poor
  • Trending arrow Fair
  • Trending arrow Good
Data quality
Moderate
B4b: Condition of native vegetation

Condition: It was not possible to determine an overall assessment of vegetation condition for the ACT, or changes over the reporting period (2015–16 to 2018–19). Available condition assessments show an increased occurrence of dieback in the ACT, large areas of poor riparian connectivity, much vegetation outside tolerable fire intervals and vegetation dominated by early and young growth stages. However, woodlands, Natural Temperate Grasslands and secondary grasslands have shown an increase in native plant species richness suggesting an improvement in condition.

Condition & trend
  • ? Poor
  • ? Fair
  • ? Good
Data quality
Low
B5: Distribution and abundance of terrestrial plants and animals

Invasive plants and animals continue to have a significant impact on native species and ecosystem health, and also represent a significant management burden. In areas where invasive species are controlled, outcomes clearly demonstrate the value of well-resourced and ongoing invasive species management to control established populations and to eradicate new outbreaks where possible.

Condition & trend
  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good
Data quality
Moderate
Indicator assessment legend
Condition
  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is healthy across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have negligible impact on environmental condition/human health.

  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is neither positive or negative and may be variable across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have limited impact on environmental condition/human health.

  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is under significant stress, OR pressure likely to have significant impact on environmental condition/ human health.

  • Poor
  • Unknown
  • Good

Data is insufficient to make an assessment of status and trends.

Trend
Trending arrow

Improving

Trending arrow

Deteriorating

Stable

?

Unclear

Data quality
High

Adequate high-quality evidence and high level of consensus

Moderate

Limited evidence or limited consensus

Low

Evidence and consensus too low to make an assessment

N/A

Assessments of status, trends and data quality are not appropriate for the indicator

Water

W1: Aquatic ecosystem health

Aquatic ecosystem health is variable across the ACT and strongly influenced by land use. Aquatic health is mostly good in conservation areas, but condition is poorer in urban and rural areas. The impact of land use is particularly evident for assessments of macroinvertebrate and riparian condition. Dry conditions in the region are also having an impact on aquatic health. Alien fish populations are high for the Murrumbidgee River with native fish accounting for less than 30% of fish abundance and 20% of biomass.

Condition & trend
  • ? Poor
  • ? Fair
  • ? Good
Data quality
High
W2: River flows

All river flows were well below the long-term average in 2017 and 2018. A continuation of these conditions will have consequences for the ecosystem health and amenity of rivers in the ACT. All discharges downstream of storage reservoirs met the environmental flow requirement; this took place despite the significantly reduced rainfall and river flows in 2017 and 2018.

Condition & trend
  • Trending arrow Poor
  • Trending arrow Fair
  • Trending arrow Good
Data quality
High
W3: Water quality

Water quality was generally good for the reporting period, including for sites in urban and rural areas. Water quality results may reflect the decreased rainfall for most of the reporting period. However, turbidity remains an issue following high rainfall events. Water quality in the Murrumbidgee River is comparable upstream and downstream of the ACT indicating minimal water quality impacts in the region.

Condition & trend
  • Trending arrow Poor
  • Trending arrow Fair
  • Trending arrow Good
Data quality
High
W4: Recreational water quality

Recreation water quality is poor in the ACT for both lakes and rivers. Nearly every monitored recreation site experienced closures due to the exceedance of enterococci guidelines, and blue-green algae has required extended closures in Canberra’s lakes. Lake Tuggeranong was closed for most of the 2018–19 recreational swim season due to poor recreational water quality.

Condition & trend
  • Trending arrow Poor
  • Trending arrow Fair
  • Trending arrow Good
Data quality
High
Indicator assessment legend
Condition
  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is healthy across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have negligible impact on environmental condition/human health.

  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is neither positive or negative and may be variable across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have limited impact on environmental condition/human health.

  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is under significant stress, OR pressure likely to have significant impact on environmental condition/ human health.

  • Poor
  • Unknown
  • Good

Data is insufficient to make an assessment of status and trends.

Trend
Trending arrow

Improving

Trending arrow

Deteriorating

Stable

?

Unclear

Data quality
High

Adequate high-quality evidence and high level of consensus

Moderate

Limited evidence or limited consensus

Low

Evidence and consensus too low to make an assessment

N/A

Assessments of status, trends and data quality are not appropriate for the indicator

Fire

F1: Area burnt in prescribed burns and bushfires

Since 2003, there have been no large bushfires in the ACT. The area of prescribed burns far exceeds that of bushfires, accounting for 94% of the total hectares burnt between 2004 to April 2019, and 96% between 2015 to 2019. Prescribed burns are dominated by fuel reduction activities, with ecological and cultural burns responsible for only 2% of all burning activity between 2015 and April 2019. However, there is a growing recognition of the importance of fire for vegetation, biodiversity and cultural management in the ACT. Arson remains an issue for fire occurrence in the ACT, responsible for 45% of ignitions between 2004 and April 2019, compared to 16% for lightning and 10% for accidents.

Condition & trend
  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good
Data quality
High
F2: Fire risk

Between 2014–15 and 2018–19, climate conditions led to an increase in the average and maximum Fire Danger Index (FDI). There was also an increase in the number of days with a very high Fire Danger Rating (FDR) from 11 days in 2014– 15 to 44 in 2018–2019. The 2018–19 fire season had the highest fire danger, with the greatest number of very high and high FDR days, and the highest maximum FDI. Climate change is expected to increase both average and severe FDI in the future.

Condition & trend
  • Trending arrow Poor
  • Trending arrow Fair
  • Trending arrow Good
Data quality
High
Indicator assessment legend
Condition
  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is healthy across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have negligible impact on environmental condition/human health.

  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is neither positive or negative and may be variable across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have limited impact on environmental condition/human health.

  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good

Environmental condition is under significant stress, OR pressure likely to have significant impact on environmental condition/ human health.

  • Poor
  • Unknown
  • Good

Data is insufficient to make an assessment of status and trends.

Trend
Trending arrow

Improving

Trending arrow

Deteriorating

Stable

?

Unclear

Data quality
High

Adequate high-quality evidence and high level of consensus

Moderate

Limited evidence or limited consensus

Low

Evidence and consensus too low to make an assessment

N/A

Assessments of status, trends and data quality are not appropriate for the indicator