Environment Clearing muddied waters

Clearing muddied waters

Some running concerns have been cleared up about water quality on the NSW Coffs Coast.

Coff’s Coast waterways are suffering from a nitrogen double-whammy from fertilisers and recycled sewage.

High nitrogen levels entering downstream waterways can affect fragile ecosystems.

It is common for excess nutrients to trigger algae blooms and fish kills in enclosed waterways near intensive farming activity.

Guided by community concerns, a team from Southern Cross University performed novel water quality fingerprinting investigations in 11 coastal catchments experiencing rapid land-use change in the area.

Shane White, a PhD researcher at the University’s National Marine Science Centre (NMSC),  said the creeks in the upper catchment had been extremely efficient at filtering the water.

“These waterways remove nearly all the nitrogen during dry conditions, but lose this ability during rain events when large amounts of nitrogen in creeks can escape to the coast,” he said.

The researchers found that intensive irrigation was having an increased effect on lower reaches of the catchment, so they are now working with stakeholders in the area to come up with a series of innovative solutions.

“We are working with farmers, industry and government to improve on-farm practices and provide a framework to protect the waterways from harm,” Mr White said.

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