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Central Ranges

Water:  Water quality for consumption

High Priority

What is this issue

Decline in water quality (for human use) and quality due to capture by large dams and groundwater extraction for domestic and production purposes.

Impacts of the issue

  • Very limited water available for production purposes or stock and domestic supplies, therefore limited potential for expansion without additional sources of water imported to the area
  • Insufficient environmental flows to sustain already impacted aquatic ecosystems


  • Extraction by large dams and bores, therefore reduced flushing capacity (dilution factor)
  • Increased development and nutrient inputs via septic systems
  • Grazing management adjacent to water capture and infiltration areas
  • Pesticide use associated with horticulture or nursery industry (especially following opening rains)


Eighty per cent of land is privately owned and depends on the management actions of the landholder to improve water quality impacts.

Climate impacts and adaptation needs

  • This issue likely to be exacerbated by climate change, however the volume of supply and surrounding land uses will remain the key considerations
  • Improved water use efficiencies, particularly for large industrial users, will aid climate adaptation

Who plays a role

  • Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources
  • Environment Protection Agency
  • Landholders
  • Local Government (Mid Murray Council, Barossa Council, Adelaide Hills Council)
  • Non-Government Organisations
  • *SA Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board
  • SA Water

Strategies and Actions

Reduce nutrient and pathogen contamination to water supplies

  • Raise awareness of the benefits of improving water quality for all users; engage landholders through one-one-one extension and use existing community groups
  • Engage with and inform landholders about safe chemical use including when to use, where it travels, and the importance of riparian buffer zones
  • Implement the Water Allocation Plan to increase environmental flows (as dilution flows) to improve water quality
  • Ensure relevant water treatment infrastructure such as septic systems are operating effectively

Buffer and restore riparian zones to improve water quality

  • Support the concept of a Mt Lofty Ranges World Heritage bid or status
  • Build the capacity of NRM and Local Government planning staff in development policy and referrals process
  • Consider new policy options to limit further urban expansion into productive agricultural land

Support research and monitoring to improve knowledge of riparian restoration and management needs for improved water quality and biodiversity benefits

  • Continue research in best practice methods for weed control in riparian zones to reduce herbicide contamination risks
  • Ongoing monitoring of water quality

Treat water supplies to manage health risks

  • Continue water treatment programs to ensure supplies are suitable for human consumption