National Water Quality Management Strategy
Groundwater Protection in Australia
Agriculture and Resource
Management Council of Australia and New Zealand
Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council
Copies of this publication may be obtained from:
Australian Water and Wastewater Association
PO Box 388
ARTARMON NSW 2064
Telephone (02) 9413 1288 Facsimile (02) 9413 1047
or: Commonwealth Government bookshops in the States and Territories
Telephone: 132 447
For further information, contact: The Secretary
Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand
Department of Primary Industries and Energy
GPO Box 858
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Tel: (06) 272 5216 Fax: (06) 272 4772 or:
Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council
GPO Box 787
CANBERRA ACT 2600
(02) 6274 1428 Fax: (02) 6274 1858
(c) Commonwealth of Australia 1995
ISBN 0 642 19558 7
ISSN 1038 7072
Printed on recycled paper.
Printed in Australia for the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and
New Zealand, and the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council.
Web Version prepared 25 September 2001
These guidelines are part of the National Water Quality Management Strategy. The objective of these guidelines is to provide a framework for protecting groundwater from contamination in Australia. This framework will enable each State, Territory and the Commonwealth to develop policies and strategies which are tailored to their specific legislative and resource management situations.
One million people in 600 communities around Australia enjoy great benefits from their groundwater resources. Groundwater is an important source of water for major cities, industries and rural towns. For many isolated communities and rural properties, their very existence relies on the availability of good groundwater. Many features on our landscape, such as wetlands and lakes, are directly linked to the groundwater beneath.
A benchmark report. The Status of Groundwater Contamination and Regulation in Australia, was published in 1990. The report showed that for most of the States and Territories there was adequate legislation available to protect groundwater, even if it was fragmented across several areas of government in some States and Territories. However, little protective action was actually taking place.
The protection framework outlined in these guidelines involves the identification of specific beneficial uses and values for every major aquifer, i.e. the classification of groundwater bodies. Depending upon specific circumstances, there are a number of protection strategies which can emerge to protect each aquifer, but all involve monitoring. A public planning process is required in order to examine possible options and select the best set of strategies. The protection strategies which emerge will mainly be pro-active in nature but some current problems will also require remedial action.
The major types of protection strategies are classified into three 'legislative' groups. First, there is a whole range of traditional groundwater management measures available, such as vulnerability maps, aquifer classification systems and wellhead protection plans. Secondly, there is a range of land-use planning measures which can help prevent contamination occurring at inappropriate locations. Finally, there is a variety of environmental protection measures emerging which tackle modern waste management problems in progressive ways. Nearly all protection strategies will rely on government intervention backed by community support.
Protection planning processes are at an early stage of evolution in Australia. These guidelines assist by providing a case example of the steps involved in developing a regional protection plan for groundwater. This case study aims to assist and guide managers and the community towards a successful outcome from their planning.
Finally, a national goal is set for all groundwater managers in Australia. The goal is for all States Territories and the Commonwealth to have a beneficial use classification in place for all significant aquifers by the end of the decade. Consequently, this goal will help ensure that the first step is talon towards adequately planning for the protection of Australia's groundwater resource.
SUMMARY i Acknowledgments
INTRODUCTIONBackgroundObjectives of GuidelinesScope of GuidelinesNational Water Quality Management StrategyTerminology
THE NEED FOR GROUNDWATER PROTECTIONThe Benefits of GroundwaterGroundwater Contamination SourcesGroundwater Protection in AustraliaThe Need for Protection
UNDERLYING PRICIPLES FOR GUIDELINESGroundwater: A pervasive ResourceBeneficial Use Framework and Polluter Pays PrincipleAchieving Equity
APPROACHES TO GROUNDWATER PROTECTIONForms of InterventionTypes of Protection StrategiesGroundwater Management MeasuresLand Use Planning MeasuresEnvironment Protection MeasuresOther Measures
DEVELOPMENT OF A PROTECTION PLANBackgroundPublic InvolvementStrategic Assessment of Grounwater ResourcesProtection Objectives and Beneficial UsesIdentifying Beneficial Uses and Appropriate CriteriaNarrative and Prescriptive CriteriaPoint of Application CriteriaLand Use Planning OptionsEnvironment Protection OptionsMonitoring and ReviewContingency MeasuresSelection and Implementation of Preferred Options
333335383940414243454647486. CONCLUSION 50
I. Types and Sources of Contaminants51II. Water Quality Criteria55III. Technical Guidance Documentation58
1. Groundwater use and vulnerability categories
222. Example of a wellhead protection zone for public water supplies273. Examples of some protection measures32
3.Examples of steps in developing a regional protection plan for groundwater374.Adaptive management approach to protection39
I-1Contaminants and sources52I-2Priority contaminants in industrial waste streams54III-1Prevention and remedial measures70III-2Methodologies for aquifer clean-up72
The preparation of these guidelines was undertaken by the Water Resources Management Committee of ARMCANZ. Appreciation is extended to the numerous contributions to the various versions of these guidelines since the first draft appeared in 1958. Editing and writing was carried out by Jim Keary. Harry Ventriss wrote the original version of Chapter 5.
Contamination of Australia's groundwater resources and the resultant undesirable effects on the environment and humans has been a growing concern among water managers in all States and Territories of Australia for some years. In the first comprehensive publication on groundwater in Australia published by the Australian Water Resources Council (AWRC) in
1975, the threat of contamination from 'waste chemicals…percolating from the surface…’ was clearly recognised1. In 1979 a conference in Perth sponsored by AWRC documented numerous cases of groundwater contamination and showed the general level of concern about these matters in the water sector2.
Work on these guidelines was initiated by the AWRC Water Resources Management Committee following a recommendation from the former AWRC Groundwater Technical Committee. This committee had earlier commissioned an inventory study of incidents of groundwater contamination in Australia. It was recognised that while that study gathered a substantial database and illustrated that the issue of groundwater contamination is of concern across Australia, the study needed to be supplemented by further work which assessed the significance of this contamination since groundwater and its environment vary widely across Australia. It was also evident that a number of significant incidents and types of contamination were not reported thus giving a distorted view of the distribution of contamination across Australia.
Since there were general concerns among Australian groundwater managers regarding contamination which needed to be addressed, the primary purpose of further work was to be directed towards development of groundwater protection guidelines. These guidelines could then be used to assist State, Territory and Commonwealth Governments in the formulation of policies to protect groundwater from pollution.
These national guidelines were developed to address this common need. They provide the common national framework under which each State, Territory and the Commonwealth can create appropriate management arrangements to protect this continent's groundwater resource from undesirable degradation.
These guidelines focus on a specific part of groundwater management, viz. the protection of the quality of groundwater from contamination, and also focus on land-based management of the groundwater resource. Whilst the scope of any guidelines is limited, it is important to recognise the boundaries of guidelines from the outset and realise that these guidelines need to be viewed as a small but important step towards better management of this nation's water resource.
1.2 Objectives of Guidelines
The objective of these guidelines is to provide a national framework for the protection of groundwater from contamination. This framework will enable each State, Territory and the Commonwealth to develop policies and strategies which are tailored to their specific needs. They are written primarily for managers and specialists working in this field. They also provide a valuable information source for many other interested individuals and groups.
The guidelines were written to provide this broad framework since there is great variation in actions being taken and in the legislation available in each State, Territory and the Commonwealth. The aim of these guidelines is to provide an overall vision for groundwater protection and strategies. Individual States, Territories and the Commonwealth would then fill in the strategic details which are pertinent to their institutional, legislative and physical situations.
Many States are currently preparing a second generation of strategies for groundwater protection in critical areas. These guidelines will provide a timely focus for coordinating this new set of strategies within an Australian context.
1.3 Scope of Guidelines
The starting point for these guidelines is the current set of actions which are occurring throughout Australia to protect groundwater. The background report The Status of Groundwater Contamination and Regulation in Australia3 provides a description of this starting point.
The desired end point is a situation where general protection strategies cover all major Australian groundwater bodies and detailed protection strategies are in place for localities with high potential for groundwater pollution. These guidelines provide the framework in which government groundwater and environmental managers can develop strategies to achieve this desired end-point.
Chapter 2 makes use of local and overseas experience to describe the benefits of groundwater, the ways contamination can occur and identifies the need for groundwater protection. This chapter sets the scene for the non-specialist.
Chapter 3 initially outlines the difficulties associated with managing and protecting groundwater. Principles are then described which are the basis for the framework of these guidelines.
Many types of protection measures are used throughout the world. Chapter 4 classifies and describes the prominent measures and presents a planning framework which will allow relevant groundwater management and protection plans to be drawn up in each Australian State, Territory and the Commonwealth.
Groundwater protection plans and strategies can be developed in a multitude of ways. A practical approach to the development of a regional protection plan using conventional regulatory provisions is outlined, step by step, in Chapter 5. This chapter demonstrates to the practitioner how the principles and components of protection strategies can be brought together into a workable plan and draws upon the details of several practical approaches from the United States.
The appendices provide a ready reference for detailed technical information which is required in the development of protection strategies. The appendices and an accompanying document, A Preliminary Guide to the Standard Operating Procedures for Groundwater Sampling4, provide technical guidance for the specialist who will be required to document various technical processes and' procedures for protection plans.
1.4 National Water Quality Management Strategy
The Agricultural and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ). which incorporates the activities of the former AWRC, and the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) are developing a National Water Quality Management Strategy. The Strategy consists of a series of policy and guideline documents which will help water authorities, environment protection agencies, catchment managers and the community manage the quality of the nation's water resources in a sustainable way. The documents cover topics including:
Policies and Principles
Wetter Quality Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Waters
Drinking Water Guidelines
Guidelines for Sewerage Systems
Acceptance of Trade Waste (Industrial Waste)
Sludge (Bio-solids) Management
Use of Reclaimed Water
Sewerage System Overflows
Rural Land Uses and Water Quality
Guidelines for Urban Stormwater Systems
Effluent Management Guidelines for Farm Dairies and Dairy Processing Plants
Effluent Management Guidelines for Piggeries
Effluent Management Guidelines for Wool Scouring
Effluent Management Guidelines for Tanning arid Related Industries
Effluent Management Guidelines for Wineries and Distilleries
Monitoring and Reporting Water Quality
These guidelines on groundwater protection were written to be generally consistent with other documents in the series. However, every document has its own particular points of emphasis or use of special terminology depending on the topic. There are also some areas of overlap between the documents, which is to be expected. The groundwater guidelines do not attempt to cover all topics in detail and they specifically refer to other guidelines and documents where this is appropriate.