The EPA works to protect South Australian waters from the adverse impacts of pollution that might reduce their value to current and future generations. This includes our creeks, streams, rivers, coastal waters, groundwater and aquifers.
In this section you will find information about the EPA’s involvement in water quality monitoring, science, regulation planning and management.
What is water quality and how is it assessed?
Water quality describes the condition of a water body and its related suitability for different purposes (also known as environmental values). In a healthy water body, the water quality supports a rich and varied community of organisms, sustains public health and/or agricultural applications.
Go to the Aquatic Ecosystem Condition Reports to see how the EPA assesses South Australian waterways.
Water quality and environmental values
When the EPA samples monitoring sites across the state and measures water quality, we take into account the importance of the water body as an ecosystem or a resource. This involves thinking about the environmental values that are to be protected, as set out in the Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy 2003:
- maintenance of aquatic ecosystems (eg river flows that help to keep a river healthy)
- drinking water
- agriculture and aquaculture (eg oyster farming), including irrigation and livestock
- recreational uses (eg swimming or boating) and aesthetics (visual appearance and enjoyment)
- industrial uses.
For example, and depending on the conditions, moderate or poor water quality at metropolitan beaches could affect 'recreational' and 'ecosystem' values by making the water less safe for swimming, and by threatening seagrasses essential to a healthy ecosystem. Further, in the unlikely event that we were to test seawater in relation to the environmental value of 'drinking water', it would rate very poorly. This shows that it is important to assess water quality in relation to relevant environmental values and take into account the different characteristics of water necessary in different contexts.