This report provides an analysis of the Australian coastal outfalls and ranks them according to the total flow volume and nutrients load to prioritise the potential degree of impact of each source to the environment and human health. Water quality data were collected from 42 Water Treatment Authorities (WTAs) around Australia by either downloading the water quality data reports directly from WTA websites or by formally requesting the data through email. The pollutant contribution index, based on nitrogen and phosphorous loads, was calculated for each outfall. Nitrogen and phosphorous loads were calculated according to the Load Calculation Protocol of New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change. Outfalls were ordered from lowest to highest index value to rank them according to their relative pollutant contribution to the coastal and marine environment. The index is based on a total nutrient load discharge using the variables of flow, nitrogen and phosphorous.
The results showed that total nutrient load from individual outfalls sites around Australia ranged from 90.4 to 14,324,559.1 kg with a mean of 420,398.19 kg. The ranked loads throughout Australia were mapped by quartiles. The top quartile (lowest nutrient load) of outfalls seem to be more prevalent in regional areas and discharge less nitrogen and phosphorus loads into the coastal and marine environment. The bottom quartile, on the other hand, with higher nutrient loads appear to occur around the major cities. The phosphorous concentrations contribute less to the overall outfall nutrient load and vary less between outfall site. Nitrogen, on the other hand has a higher median contribution and high variability across the sites.
In general, the outfalls contributing higher nitrogen and phosphorous loads vary more than those delivering lower loads. There may be many reasons for this, but it could be related to the capacities of the treatment plants and storm water management in urban areas, resulting in increased in discharge at metropolitan outfall sites. There are some exceptions to this pattern with rural/regional sites contributing higher nutrient loads than urban areas. The reasons for them may vary, however, they may primarily be due to the conditions set out in their licenses. This ranking of nutrient loads from Australian outfalls by site at a national scale can therefore be useful in prioritizing treatment upgrade resources to manage biodiversity impacts and human health concerns.