Outlook on nation’s water quality not good, reveals new report

Posted 10 March 2017

Water qualityGroundwater and ecosystem water quality conditions have received an unfavourable review in the latest national State of the Environment Inland Water report.

For the first time, the annual State of the Environment Inland Water report included an assessment of groundwater – and the verdict was not good.

“Groundwater condition is mostly graded as poor, reflecting historical groundwater use, significant numbers of bores and low knowledge of the impacts on groundwater-dependent ecosystems,” the report stated. 

“Trends were mostly assessed as deteriorating or stable. Water ecosystem condition was rated largely as poor.”

However, water quality assessments – rated on a scale of very poor, poor, good and very good – were more varied overall. 

The Lake Eyre Basin was rated 'good' on the spectrum of four grades. Meanwhile, the Murray-Darling Basin was rated 'poor' but was considered to be trending upwards, with the report noting “recent local improvements in water quality against a background of values exceeding guidelines”.

Looking to the future, the report predicted inland waters faced a number of risks including changes in climate and infrastructure projects.

Proposals for significant national infrastructure development and exploitation of coal-seam gas resources during the coming decades raise risks of surface-water regime change, surface-water pollution, increased groundwater extraction, seawater intrusion, and accelerated spread of pest plants and animals,” the report stated. 

The State of the Environment Inland Water report was released alongside a number of other thematic reports. 

The report covering the nation's marine environments found most marine habitats, communities and species groups were in good condition overall.

The thematic report on Australia’s coasts was mixed, with environmental conditions “being largely good in the north-west and far northeast of the country, and largely poor in the east, south-east and south-west”.

For more on Australia’s groundwater, read the feature article from last issue of Current magazine.