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Water quality in the Richmond

July 2020: Rous County Council are installing a new system of water quality data loggers, and will discontinue weekly manual sampling for the time being. Rous County Council takes a leading role in water quality monitoring in the Richmond, and has commenced a new partnership with the NSW Department of Planning Industry and Environment (DPIE) and Southern Cross University (SCU). While new equipment is being constructed, there will be a period of reduced water quality data available. 

DPIE plans to establish a series of permanent monitoring sites within the Richmond River estuary and upstream catchment areas, measuring pH, salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen and turbidity. That project will provide a better understanding of water quality in the Richmond, with real-time results available online.

Due to efficiencies with that project, Rous County Council is will undertake new water quality monitoring effort on the floodplain with DPIE and SCU, with more real-time data loggers with high reliability that are designed locally. Rous County Council have been successful with winning a 3-year grant under the NSW Coast and Estuary Grants program titled 'Richmond River water quality monitoring project', for implementation starting mid 2020. The new grant and partnership has been made with consultation with our constituent councils, technical advice from DPIE, SCU and the UNSW Water Research Laboratory.

The number of Rous County Council data logger locations will increase from five to seven, with loggers at Rocky Mouth Creek, Tuckean Barrage (upstream), Tuckean Barrage (downstream), and new sites at North Creek (Ross Lane), Bungawalbin Creek, Wardell and Woodburn.

Results from the new data loggers will be made available as soon as possible, with updates provided on this website in the following months.

Historical water quality data

The Richmond River’s water quality is influenced by natural processes such as the tide, rainfall and season, and by anthropogenic (human induced) clearing, draining and management, which can result in high nutrients, turbid water, acid water and blackwater. This link to turbidity shows filtered samples of river water before and after rain. Historical water quality data is available below, or please see this Review of Water Quality in Rocky Mouth Creek.

Historical water quality monitoring graphs

2020 Coraki Kilgin Rocky Mouth Creek Swan Bay Woodburn Bagotville Barrage
2019 Coraki Kilgin Rocky Mouth Creek Swan Bay Woodburn Bagotville Barrage
2018 Coraki Kilgin Rocky Mouth Creek Swan Bay Woodburn Bagotville Barrage
2017 Coraki Kilgin Rocky Mouth Creek Swan Bay Woodburn Bagotville Barrage
2016 Coraki Kilgin Rocky Mouth Creek Swan Bay Woodburn Bagotville Barrage
Note: Records are available dating from 2013.

Historical salinity reports

2020 January February March April May June
July August September October November December
2019 January February March April May June
July August September October November December
2018 January February March April May June
July August September October November December

12-month historical water quality data

January 2020 Summary        
December 2019 Summary        
November 2019 Summary        
October 2019 Summary        
September 2019 Summary        
August 2019 Tuckean Swamp
Site 1
Tuckean Swamp
Site 2
Tuckean Swamp
Site 4
Rocky Mouth Creek

North Creek

July 2019 Tuckean Swamp
Site 1
Tuckean Swamp
Site 2
Tuckean Swamp
Site 4
Rocky Mouth Creek  
June 2019 Tuckean Swamp
Site 1
Tuckean Swamp
Site 2
Tuckean Swamp
Site 4
Rocky Mouth Creek

North Creek

May 2019 Tuckean Swamp
Site 1
Tuckean Swamp
Site 2
Tuckean Swamp
Site 4
Rocky Mouth Creek

North Creek

April 2019 Tuckean Swamp
Site 1
Tuckean Swamp
Site 2
Tuckean Swamp
Site 4
Rocky Mouth Creek North Creek
March 2019 Tuckean Swamp
Site 1
Tuckean Swamp
Site 2
Tuckean Swamp
Site 4
Rocky Mouth Creek

North Creek

February 2019 Tuckean Swamp
Site 1
Tuckean Swamp
Site 2
Tuckean Swamp
Site 4
Rocky Mouth Creek North Creek

These parameters are used in the above data graphs to determine water quality levels:

  • Electrical conductivity
    Electrical conductivity (EC) is a measure of the concentration of ion in solution. EC is temperature-dependant (increasing approximately 2-3% per degree Celsius). International convention dictated that the measurements are to be standardised to 15oC; this is known as specific conductivity. The electrical conductivity of sea water is 55-60mS/cm, which converts to 35 parts per thousand (ppt). EC below 1.8mS/cm is considered fresh by the Australian and New Zealand Environment Conservation Council (ANZECC) Water Quality Guidelines.
     
  • pH
    pH is a measure of acidity/alkalinity, with values ranging from 0 to 14. pH; values below 7 indicate acidic conditions. ANZECC guidelines for the protection of aquatic ecosystems indicated that a pH range between 6.5 and 9 is acceptable.
     
  • Dissolved oxygen
    Dissolved oxygen (DO) in terms of mg/L is a measure of the concentration of oxygen dissolved into the water. The concentration of oxygen in water can be influenced by temperature, pressure and ionic concentration. The DO concentration can vary greatly with biological activity. ANZECC guidelines recommend that DO is above 6mg/L over a diurnal cycle. DO is one of the most important water quality parameters to measure the health of a water body.
     
  • Temperature
    The ANZECC guidelines for the protection of aquatic ecosystems for temperature of fresh and marine waters is <2oC change. While for a fully marine system this sounds reasonable, most waterways can vary up to 10oC over the daily cycle, as a result of solar radiation inputs and convection by atmospheric temperature. This is especially noticeable in shallow or stratified waters without shading riparian vegetation.
     
  • Total dissolved solids (TDS)
    TDS is a measure of the combined content of all inorganic and organic dissolved molecular, ionized or suspended micro-granular substances in the water, including minerals, salts or metals measured in parts per thousand (ppt).
     
  • Turbidity
    Turbidity is a measure used to quantify the degree to which light travelling through the water column is scattered by suspended particles. Increasing turbidity will reduce light penetration into a water body, and therefore have a detrimental effect on the potential for photosynthesis. If turbidity is mainly caused by organic particles, there is a high risk of oxygen depletion.The ANZECC guidelines for the protection of aquatic ecosystems for turbidity of fresh and marine waters is <10% seasonal change. This idea of seasonal change allows for flood events where there is an increase suspended load that will be settled out after the fresh has passed.
     
  • Water level
    This parameter measures the rises and falls in water level. These variations can be attributed to the incoming and outgoing tides, as well as rainfall events.
     
  • Rainfall
    Rainfall is often a trigger for changes in water quality.

Definition sources: Manly Hydraulics Laboratory.