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Study focus area (Photo credit: DENR)Where are Adelaide's coastal waters?

The Adelaide coastal waters include the Port waterways and metropolitan beaches, and extend from Sellicks Beach in the south to Port Gawler in the north. They include the waters approximately 20 km offshore. Adelaide’s coastal waters are part of the waters of Gulf St Vincent and include areas of seagrass and reef environments supporting important feeding grounds and nurseries for fish, crustaceans, molluscs and marine mammals. Maintaining good water quality is essential for the maintenance of these marine habitats and important for industry and the recreational uses of Adelaide's coastal waters and metropolitan beaches.

What are the problems facing the Adelaide coastal waters?

Historically the area of the Port River and the broader area of Adelaide’s coastal waters have been impacted by poor water quality from discharges from industry, wastewater and stormwater.  The EPA has previously studied and monitored water quality in this area quite extensively.

The EPA established the Adelaide Coastal Waters Study (ACWS) in 2001 in response to concerns about the decline in coastal water quality and loss of more than 5,000 hectares of seagrass.  The (ACWS) found that discharges into Adelaide’s coastal waters from wastewater treatment plants, industry and stormwater outlets are high in nutrients and suspended solids and are causing loss of seagrass along the Adelaide coastline. Excess nutrients cause algal blooms and epiphyte growth on seagrass leading to loss of seagrass. Discharges of high levels of suspended solids into the Adelaide coastal waters increase turbidity levels contributing to challenges for re-establishing seagrass, poor recreational water quality and may result in beach closures at times after rain events. Loss of seagrass has implications in terms of sediment instability for the management of Adelaide’s beaches and loss of seagrass results in more carbon released into the atmosphere. The carbon storage value of seagrass beds is greater than equivalent sized terrestrial based carbon stored in areas such as rainforest or woodland.

What is being done to improve water quality in the Adelaide coastal waters?

In order to further the recommendations from the ACWS and provide a long-term strategy to achieve and sustain water quality consistent with community expectations for Adelaide’s coastal waters the Adelaide Coastal Water Quality Improvement Plan (ACWQIP) has been developed.

The ACWQIP has been developed in partnership with relevant government agencies, business and industry. A summary overview (1.3 MB PDF) of the ACWQIP has been provided for your information.

The ACWQIP has now been finalised and implementation planning and work for the eight strategies in the ACWQIP is underway in partnership with key stakeholders and the community.

The EPA also completed the Port Waterway water quality improvement plan in 2008 which is focused on water quality improvement for the Port Waterways.

Water quality monitoring

The EPA's Water Quality Monitoring Program has previously involved monitoring water quality in the Port waterways and along metropolitan beaches, but now is focussed on ecosystem condition monitoring of seagrass and reef habitats in Gulf St Vincent. This condition assessment monitoring can still provide a good indication of what is happening for Adelaide’s coastal waters in terms of water quality and condition of segrass and reef areas along the Adelaide coastline.


Adelaide coastal waters information sheets

Following the completion of the ACWS, information sheets on Adelaide’s coastal waters and some of the findings of the study are now available.

The first 8 Information Sheets in this series are:


For further information please contact:

Environment Protection Authority, GPO Box 2607, Adelaide SA 5001.

Telephone: (08) 8204 2004, Facsimile: (08) 8124 4670, Freecall (country): 1800 623 445, and email.

Last modified: 14/01/2015 07:44 am

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