Clean Ocean Foundation is developing the National Outfall Database to provide policy makers with a guide to help prioritise outfall reform and identify public and private sector opportunities for waste water recycling.

For the first time Australia will have a publically accessible National Outfall Database (NOD), developed by Clean Ocean Foundation in collaboration with the States and Northern Territory and supported by the National Environmental Science Program - Marine Biodiversity Hub.

The project will be delivered over a four year time frame assisted by citizen scientists who will collect new monitoring data on priority coastal sewerage outfalls in Australia. This will help identify any potential health and environmental impacts of sewerage outfalls on the marine environment and surrounding communities.

Clean Ocean Foundation is developing the NOD to provide policy makers with detailed comparative information to help prioritise outfall reform that would benefit local communities. The NOD will also identify opportunities for waste water recycling for the public and private sector.

The project team will work with the States and NT to assemble all existing information on sewerage outfalls in one central location and make them available through a publically accessible database.

The team will collaborate with representatives from the scientific community and relevant State and NT representatives to provide a peer-reviewed ranking of sewerage outfalls based on their potential health and environmental impacts, taking into account receiving water body characteristics, ecological sensitivity and/or human use considerations.

The team will involve citizen scientists to help identify potential health and environmental impacts of sewerage outfalls on the Australian coastline, especially where these may not be identified by existing information.

The NOD will provide State and NT policy makers, water authorities and communities with the best available scientific information to prioritize sewerage outfall reforms that would benefit local communities.

Communities will be more engaged in and informed of the potential impact of sewerage outfalls on their health and their environment, based on outfall characteristics and the properties of the receiving environment. They will have the opportunity to contribute to this understanding in an effective and collaborative manner.

Water Authorities will benefit from cooperatively engaging with their community in an open evidence based scientific process. This will improve shared understanding about current infrastructure constraints and inform priority setting for future funding.

Pressures on the marine environments can be reduced through nationally consistent and comparable scientific information on outfalls from which policy makers can prioritize decisions on outfall reform.

Commercial interests will have ready access to detailed information on the location and composition of waste water streams for recycling for industrial, agricultural or residential development.

From early 2016 the project team will begin work with interested parties and community groups to develop and refine suitable low cost citizen science techniques to monitor outfalls for material with recognized environmental and/or health consequences.

Collection of existing data, analysis, standardisation and peer-review will result in the first results being available for use by policy makers, manager and interested communities in 2017.

Related information

Water sampling being conducted from a jetski at Baxters outfall near Wonthaggi, Victoria. Image: Clean Ocean Foundation