Are you planning an upcoming trip to Australia?
Are you looking forward to spending time on the beach or swimming in the ocean?
Did you know that you might encounter water pollution in more ways than one?
Many people around the rest of the world don’t realize it, but water pollution is a huge problem in Australian marine water. If you’re planning a trip, or if you happen to live there, there is a lot you need to know about the serious problem of marine water pollution in Australia.
Water pollution in Australia is a much different situation than it is in many other places around the world. Where much of the world is more concerned with preserving sources of freshwater than worrying too much about saltwater, Australia has a lot of policies in place to protect their ocean and marine life and the water that sustains it. This country is very highly concerned with the overall safety and wellbeing of its oceans, and rightly so. Marine pollution is a major problem in Australia that needs to be taken care of as soon as possible.
Australia is home to many natural reefs and several unique species of fish, birds, and marine mammals that can’t be found anywhere else. However, when marine pollution takes place, all of these creatures as well as the fragile ecosystems in which they live become threatened. The more pollution takes place, the less likely these animals will be to survive.
In this article, you will learn about the many different sources of marine water pollution in Australia, as well as the ways in which it is being treated. You will also find out 10 facts about the water pollution problem in and around the coast of Australia. The more you learn about this, the more likely you are to try to find a way to help, so read on to find out more.
Sources of Australian Water Pollution
Marine pollution is common in and around Australia, and there are several difference sources that cause this serious and widespread issue. In order to better understand the problem of marine water pollution, it is a good idea to first explore what makes it happen in the first place. Below are some of the leading causes of marine water pollution in Australia. Read up on them and you will have a better idea of the spread of this problem and ways that it can be potentially fought and maybe even stopped in some areas.
- Oil spills and leaks – Although these do not happen too often, the most recent serious oil spill took place in Australia in 2009. There is always the potential for oil spills and leaks to happen, and even if they aren’t as significant as the 2009 spill, they may still cause serious harm to the environment. Anywhere fuel or oil are stored in tanks can be a potential problem area in terms of leakage, and many offshore drills are located around Australia. These drills may lead to major oil slicks if they become damaged or stop functioning properly.
- Sea dumping – Waste is dumped in the ocean frequently by both individuals and corporations in various industries. This was a very big problem up until the 1980s and 1990s when the Australian government finally started to crack down harder on it. However, it does still take place, and sometimes even when dumping happens legally with the proper permits it leads to serious marine water pollution. This is a big problem that is only getting bigger, but the Australian government is taking steps to prevent it from becoming so serious that it can never be remedied.
- Sediment – Sulfate soils are a big problem in terms of marine pollution in Australia. These are soils that are contaminated with naturally occurring minerals such as iron sulfide. On their own, these types of sediments aren’t necessarily dangerous, but when exposed to oxygen or to other pollutant chemicals that might wash into the water from pesticides or other types of chemical runoff, they may become very hazardous. These types of pollution can, in effect, poison water supplies, and they may cause a lot of damage to ocean life.
- Marine debris and pests – Trash ends up in the ocean a lot of the time and seriously affects the marine life that lives there. Cleanup efforts are often underway to keep beaches free from debris that could easily be washed into the ocean, and rescue efforts take place frequently to help save animals affected by this type of pollution. Marine pests also form a type of pollution that can be impossible to get rid of. When invasive species of animals or even bacteria are introduced into the ocean, they can have disastrous consequences.
- Toxic fuel – Since the ocean is home to so many harbors and sees so much use from ships, toxic fuel is a major cause for concern in and around Australian sea water. Even if ships operate within their normal functions and don’t lead to leaks or spills, they can still do a lot of harm to the marine life they encounter in the ocean. Fuel emissions in the water lead to the buildup of toxic materials that quickly kill off reef life as well as fish and mammals in the ocean.
Measures Taken to Reduce Water Pollution in Australia
There are many measures being taken to reduce the amount of water pollution present in ocean water in and around Australia. This is a country that is very aware of water pollution issues and is working hard to reduce their effects over time. However, it takes a lot of time and effort to make a difference against a problem as big and as widespread as water pollution, but Australia is well on its way to cleaning up dirty water sources and keeping the ocean as safe and as clean as possible for both human and animal life in years to come. Below are just some of the ways in which Australia is fighting back against water pollution problems.
- Sea Dumping Act – This is an official piece of legislature that vastly limits the amount of dumping allowed in the ocean. It regulates loading and unloading activities as well, and it requires individuals and companies both to obtain permits before dumping vessels and man-made structures, performing burials at sea, taking part in dredging operations, or making artificial reefs for tourism or other purposes. Checks are regularly made to ensure that anyone dumping or taking part in any of these other activities are not doing so illegally or against permitting that is already in place.
- Marine environment reports – Marine water quality reports and checks on the surrounding environment are performed on a regular basis to ensure that the environment is clean, healthy, and functioning properly. These were performed even more frequently in the area following the Montara oil spill, but they take place throughout the country every year to test for good conditions in ocean water.
- Permitting and penalties for ballast water – Vessels are not allowed to dispose of ballast water without having the proper permits. Ballast water from other places is often not allowed to be dumped at all in Australian ocean water. Heavy fines and other penalties are put in place in order to keep this from happening regularly.
- Anti-fouling education – Although there are not regulations in place to keep biofouling from happening, there is still plenty of education in the hopes of encouraging anti-fouling practices. Guidelines have been created to prevent the spread of marine pests and other contaminants due to biofouling, and various organizations work to be sure all owners of ships and other structures are aware of the possibility of biofouling.
12 Facts about Australian Water Pollution
Now that you know a little bit more about the basics of marine water pollution in Australia, you can learn 10 facts about this pollution that might surprise you. Check out this list of facts below to learn something new about the true extent of this water pollution problem, and you might even figure out a way you can get involved and try to make a difference in the quality of sea water in Australia.
1. Australian homes are notably some of the worst at conserving water in the world.
Every Australian resident uses an average of 341,000 liters of water per year. To put this in perspective, the next closest in water consumption are Canada and the United States, both of which average between two hundred and three hundred thousand liters of water in a year per person. On the other hand, Bangladesh, which has serious water pollution and availability problems, averages 16,000 liters of water per year per person.
2. Despite this overuse of water by most Australian households,
Australia is the driest continent on the planet, with 70% of the land being arid. This partly contributes to one of the biggest pollutants in Australian water: salinity. Salinity damages are very widespread and cost upwards of $250 million every year to treat and repair. Over 156,000 hectares of land are affected by this type of pollution.
3. The Montara oil spill is the most recent large-scale pollution disaster in Australian sea water.
The leak started from the wellhead at the Montara well and created an oil slick in the ocean 110 miles wide at its smallest. It took around six weeks to clean up the oil spill, and marine life was seriously affected during that time. Birds were particularly hurt during the oil spill, and many birds covered in oil were rescued during and after the time of the accident. This spill was reported on for two years after it took place to check for signs of long-term damage.
4. Land pollution makes up over 80% of all marine and freshwater pollution in Australia.
This comes from a variety of different sources, and it also just goes to show that individuals and companies alike can make a huge difference in terms of cleaning up Australia’s water.
5. Almost 14 billion plastic soda bottles, water bottles, and other containers for beverages are used by Australians every year.
Less than half of this number end up in recycling facilities, and over half of them end up in landfills or, even worse, left as litter in and around the ocean and beaches. Almost one third of all plastic marine water pollution in Australia is in the form of drink bottles.
Of these bags, almost 37,000 tons of them end up in landfills on a yearly basis, which works out to around four thousand bags a minute. Litter from these bags costs the government over four million dollars a year to clean up, and unfortunately, only a small percentage of these bags are recycled.
7. The King River is the most polluted source of water in Australia, due largely in part to the mining industry.
For decades, this river was used primarily for dumping wastes produced during mining in the area. This led to a buildup of copper in the water supply, which in turn made the water too acidic to sustain life. Until 1995, 1.5 million tons of sulfides and metallic water were dumped into the King river every year.
8. Upwards of 85% of households in Australia contribute to water pollution, whether knowingly or unknowingly, by improperly disposing of garbage and waste.
Batteries, medication and drugs, and many different types of chemicals are thrown out with regular trash pickup, which unfortunately means those items end up sitting in landfills and contributing to toxic runoff. These products should be taken to recycling or specialty dumping facilities, but they usually aren’t.
9. Microplastics are another major concern in Australian water.
A single square kilometer of ocean surrounding Australian is contaminated with an estimated four thousand small fragments of plastic. Combined, these fragments can do a lot of damage in a short amount of time, and they can bring unwanted toxicity to the ocean water that is already severely polluted by plastic water bottles.
10. In North Shore City alone, over 12,000 kilograms of dirt and over 75,000 liters of chemical detergent enter into the water supply every year.
This happens due to purposeful dumping as well as a lack of information about how to properly dispose of chemical products. People who wash their cars at home contribute significantly to this problem.
11. 85% of all marine birds in Australia are impacted in some way by marine plastic pollution.
They are either tangled in plastics, poisoned by plastic toxicity, or killed by swallowing plastics that they believed to be food.
12. The Great Barrier Reef’s water quality has been seriously damaged during recent years.
In 2015, a plan was enacted to reduce sediment runoff and nitrogen levels in the Great Barrier Reef. Because of its extensive damage, however, this plan is supposedly going to cost Australia $8.2 billion.
There is a lot to learn about the state of marine water in Australia, and we have really only scratched the surface here in this article. It is so important to understand as much as you can about the quality of ocean water in and around Australia, so you can better determine the ways in which you can pitch in and make a difference. Even if you don’t live in Australia, you might be surprised at the ways you can help this country take care of its beautiful marine life and keep the water as clean as possible for generations to come.
Remember that even if you live in other parts of the world, you can get involved in the cleanup efforts without having to lift a finger by donating to legitimate causes that work to keep beaches and the ocean clean. If you don’t feel like donating, you can always write letters and work to campaign for cleaner ocean travel practices and safer oil drilling around the Australia coastline. You might also want to pitch in and help with animal rescue efforts, especially when it comes to endangered sea turtles and other beautiful species that call Australia home.
Whichever way you plan to get involved, there is something you can do to help keep Australia’s ocean water clean and safe. This is a very real problem that the country is facing, and although the Australian government is making some good strides toward regulating dumping and penalizing those who break the rules, the marine water surrounding Australia is a long way from perfectly clean.