Mount Lofty Ranges
The Mount Lofty Ranges Watershed is the part of the Mount Lofty Ranges from which water is collected (or may be collected in future) for use by most South Australians.
What is the Mount Lofty Ranges Watershed?
The Mount Lofty Ranges Watershed is the part of the Mount Lofty Ranges from which water is collected (or may be collected in the future) for use by most South Australians. The Mount Lofty Ranges Watershed is also known as Adelaide's water supply catchment, the Adelaide Hills, the Mount Lofty Ranges and the watershed.
The map below shows the region and the reservoirs where water is stored.
- provides 60% (on average) of Adelaide's water supply. The graph below, Greater Adelaide mains water supply sources 1981-2003 gives a comparison between the Mount Lofty Ranges Watershed and the River Murray since 1981.
- is 90% privately owned land (see the difference between Melbourne and Adelaide watersheds).
- has 50,000 residents
- has an area of 1,640 km2
- yields runoff mainly during July–September (90% during this period)
- does not yield much water for its area
- 25% of wastewater is disposed of onsite
- contains 9,100 farm dams with a total of 31-GL capacity
- covers parts of nine council areas
- contains aqueducts for River Murray water
- has four unused catchments.
|Greater Adelaide mains water supply sources 1981–2003.|
|In Melbourne, the watershed of the major water supplies are 'closed' catchments. Only 10% of the watershed is used for human activities.|
|Adelaide's Mount Lofty Ranges Watershed is mostly 'open' to a diverse range of land uses. More than 90% of the watershed is used for human activities.|
What concerns are there for the watershed?
The Mount Lofty Ranges Watershed provides about 60% of Adelaide's drinking water and supports a number of important aquatic environments. Unlike the water supply catchments of most other Australian capital cities, the Mount Lofty Ranges is also an important region for agriculture as well as for urban and rural living.
About 90% of the watershed is privately owned and includes urban areas, rural townships, horticulture, viticulture, market gardens, forestry, dairy farming and grazing. Over time, this has led to serious land use conflicts that have resulted in a number of water quality problems.
There is pressure to continue development within the watershed, which will tend to worsen the water quality problems.
After more than 160 years of European occupation, our water resources have become degraded. The major water quality problems in the Mount Lofty Ranges Watershed are generally the result of a number of small influences (diffuse pollution) combining to produce a major effect on water quality. The major pollutants include:
- faecal contamination
- parasites (Cryptosporidium and Giardia)
- nutrient contamination
- pesticide contamination.
These may come from:
- leaking septic tanks
- animal faeces ending up in watercourses
- over application and poorly timed application of fertilisers and chemicals
- degraded and poorly managed watercourses
- poor management of developments, especially storage and/or disposal of waste and other materials
- waste ending up in watercourses—this includes soil, clay, gravel, sand, leaves, compost, lawn clippings, air conditioning and cooling system wastewater, animal droppings, cleaning products, garden waste, lubricants, paint and paint wastewater, pool chemicals and water, rubbish and litter, and wash-down water from vehicles and animals.
What is being done to improve the water quality in the Mt Lofty Ranges?
In 1998, the EPA set up a Watershed Protection Office (WPO) in Stirling to focus on managing and rectifying the water quality problems in this important region. This office has since closed, but was running several programs to increase awareness of water quality and to find practical, long-term solutions.
The EPA is still undertaking project works today to support the protection and improvement of water quality in the Mount Lofty Ranges Watershed through the Healthy Waters project, monitoring programs, legislation and policy development, providing advice and support with development applications and licenses, and supporting ongoing regulation where required.
The Mount Lofty Ranges Watershed Water Quality Improvement Plan (MLRWWQIP) is in development.
Programs are coordinated with state government departments, local government and industry.
Healthy Waters projects
The Healthy Waters (Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges) projects undertaken by the EPA for the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges area have involved local communities, industry and government working together to identify environmental values (EVs), or desired uses, for water resources in the region.
As part of the projects people have been asked to consider why water is important to them, what they currently enjoy or value about their local water resources, the condition they would prefer these resources to be in for future generations, and why.
The Healthy Waters projects have focused on the quality of water resources including surface water such as rivers and creeks, groundwater in underground aquifers and coastal waters from metropolitan Adelaide along the coastline of Fleurieu Peninsula to Port Elliot.
Project work has included summarising feedback from the community and consolidating existing scientific knowledge about the current condition of water resources in the region.
The projects focused on water resources within the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management (AMLR NRM) region including:
- Adelaide Coastal Water Quality Improvement Plan (ACWQIP)
- Healthy Waters - Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges - Environmental Values (EVs)
- Mount Lofty Ranges Watershed Water Quality Improvement Plan (MLRWWQIP) - in development.
Healthy Waters project partners
A number of government agencies worked together on improving water quality within the ALMR NRM region on both rural land, across the metropolitan area and at the coast. The projects have been funded by partners such as: the Australian Government's Caring for our Country initiative, state NRM Program, ALMR NRM, SA Water, Department for Environment, and Natural Resources and the EPA.
Steering groups were established with these funding partners to facilitate the delivery of projects. To take action for ongoing improvement of water quality in the region, relevant water quality improvement plans (WQIPs) have been implemented with supporting funding.
Results from the projects have helped inform government policy and future priorities for water quality planning and management, including investment in infrastructure and onground works. For example, the agreed Environmental Values will be incorporated into the EPA's Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy, which captures detailed requirements for protecting water resources in South Australia. They will also inform water security planning for the region, and guide management actions and priorities for water related projects and on-ground works carried out by the AMLR NRM Board.
National Water Quality Management Strategy
The following summary information provides an overview of some of the water quality improvement work being undertaken by the EPA and how it links to the National Water Quality Management Strategy
Read more about this approach to protecting water quality:
- Environmental values
- Water quality improvement plans
- Better waterways across Australia
- Protecting South Australia's waters
For a more detailed information guide see the (1) EPA Guidelines for establishing environmental values and water quality objectives - applying the National Water Quality Management Strategy in South Australia.
(1) NOTE: Associated with the amended water quality policy the Healthy Waters projects are not always progressing to developing of water quality objectives.
Environmental values (EVs)
The Healthy Waters Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges (AMLR) Environmental Values (EVs) project was a project led by the EPA and funded by the Australian Government's Caring for Our country initiative and the complementarity State NRM Program. It was managed by the EPA in partnership with the AMLR NRM Board, SA Water and the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources through a steering group.
The Healthy Waters project highlighted to the community that drought, climate change and the increasing pressure being placed on our water resources have encouraged people to talk about securing water to meet human needs, but that quantity is only part of the picture.
The project activities involved establishing EVs as a first step to make sure that water quality is fit for agreed purposes across the region, whether that is for drinking, agriculture, recreation, fishing, support of aquatic ecosystems, aesthetic values or cultural heritage. This process involved discussing the improvements that need to be made; considering the trade-offs that may be necessary to strike a balance between the environmental, social and economic needs of the region and its communities; and reaching agreement on what realistically can be achieved.
Links to project brochures and information sheets: