Research collaboration announces new water quality guidelines

The health of the nation’s waterways and reservoirs are set to be held to a higher standard following the release of new research by a consortium led by the University of Queensland (UQ).

UQ has been part of collaborative research effort to develop a new method to help set the maximum acceptable concentration of chemicals in waterways.

UQ School of Earth and Environmental Sciences researcher Dr Michael Warne said the work, which would help protect aquatic ecosystems, was part of a revision of the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality.

“The new method is helping develop guidelines for approximately 60 high-priority chemicals, particularly pesticides, metals, industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticalsm,” Dr Warne said.

“This means we can continue to make sure our waterways aren’t toxic to the thousands of species, from fish to microalgae, that we share these resources with.”

Dr Warne said there was still room for improvement.

“These guidelines are designed to protect organisms from the effects of individual chemicals, but organisms are generally exposed to mixtures of different chemicals,” he said.

“I’m now focusing my research, along with my colleagues from DES, on developing a method to estimate the effects of mixtures of chemicals.

“There’s simply no room for complacency, particularly with issues like the quality of water discharged on the Great Barrier Reef and the water quality in many urban waterways.

The guidelines are available here.

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