The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has launched a study to better understand water quality trends in the Murray River.
On behalf of the Basin state governments, the MDBA has commissioned La Trobe University to analyse water quality data from 28 monitoring sites along the River Murray and lower Darling. This data has been collected by Basin states since 1978 and is routinely assessed to detect sudden changes in water quality that could indicate a source of pollution or quickly emerging problems.
This new study will focus on analysing the data to detect longer term trends that impact water quality, which was last analysed in detail in 2013.
MDBA’s Senior Director of Environmental Management Dr Janet Pritchard said being able to scientifically analyse such an extensive and continuous dataset would help shed light on what drives water quality issues and highlight emerging risks and watchpoints.
“In recent months we’ve been hearing feedback from a range of River Murray stakeholders who are concerned about the apparent increases and severity of a range of water quality issues, including algal blooms,” Janet Pritchard said.
“This study will allow us to take a close look into water quality parameters like temperature, salinity, metals and nutrients and look at how they are changing over time.
“These parameters are important as they help us maintain appropriate water quality and salinity for a wide range of environmental, social, cultural and economic activities.
“Using physical and chemical data will also help us investigate changes in water quality risks, such as the link between any nutrient and temperature trends and the potential for blue-green algal blooms.”
The findings of this study will be provided to Basin states to assist them with their shared responsibility for managing water quality for all River Murray communities.
“We anticipate the findings from this study will be useful for water managers and researchers as it will allow them to understand what parameters are impacting the frequency and severity of water quality issues,” Dr Pritchard said.
The MDBA has worked closely with Basin governments to ensure this study would benefit New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and the Australian Government to understand water quality trends and drivers and how to achieve community outcomes for the River Murray’s water quality.
Analysis on the water quality data has started and findings are expected to be available in mid-2022.