Testing the waters

Water is one of our most valuable resources, yet the impacts from industrial, agricultural and urban land uses and poor management of natural resources continue to threaten our environment.

To develop a greater understanding of water quality within the Richmond Catchment, Lismore City Council has undertaken an extensive waterways monitoring program. Initiated in 1993, a final report was presented to Council in January 1997.

The four year monitoring program aimed to assess water quality within the catchment, incorporating urban, rural and pristine sites, and to develop strategies for future water quality enhancement. Water quality was compared against the Australian Water Quality Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water (ANZECC 1992).

The report included the following findings.

  • All sites exceeded ANZECC 1992 criteria for drinking water quality.
  • The smaller tributaries of the catchment were able to reduce nutrients to relatively low levels, while the larger water bodies accumulated nutrients.
  • Total phosphate levels were elevated in rural and urban areas as a result of soil erosion and urban runoff.
  • Elevated levels of nutrients and faecal coliforms were found in pristine areas.

The Report concluded that water quality impacts within the Richmond River Catchment can be attributed to urban and rural runoff and the discharge of treated sewage wastewater.

It made a number of recommendations. These included more active enforcement of water pollution offences, the development of an Urban Stormwater Management Plan, and a review of Council's sewage treatment and wastewater environmental management systems.

Extensive education programs to encourage better practices were also recommended, along with promotion of Environment Protection Authority and other statutory guidelines in the management of agricultural, industrial and commercial properties.

It was also recommended that the Waterways Monitoring Program be expanded to not only further monitor nutrient levels but to include the monitoring of pesticides, heavy metals and biological monitoring.

For further information contact Matt Kelly, Manager Environmental Health, telephone (066) 250 535.