1.5.2.1 Surface water


This product summarises water quality information in the Richmond river basin. Surface water quality may be directly impacted by runoff from areas altered by coal mines or coal seam gas (CSG) developments (areas cleared of vegetation, service roads, and site processing facilities), discharge of mine or CSG waters and leaking of hydrocarbons. A number of physical and chemical parameters may be altered by potential coal and CSG developments, including turbidity, suspended solids, pH, heavy metals concentration, salinity, and the presence of hydrocarbons. It is worth noting that there is currently a lack of data on the presence of hydrocarbons as a result of coal mining and CSG operation and development in the Clarence-Moreton bioregion.

The National Land and Water Resources Audit provides the only consistent bioregion-wide assessment of water quality (NLWRA, 2001). The National Land and Water Resources Audit provided data on the export of sediment, nutrient and phosphorus for the Richmond river basin and these were summarised in Section 1.1.5 of companion product 1.1 for the Clarence‑Moreton bioregion (Rassam et al., 2014). A follow up report for the National Land and Water Resources Audit (NLWRA, 2002a, 2002b) presented broader regional assessments and developed indices to facilitate comparison of basin and river condition. Section 1.1.5 also summarised some targeted monitoring campaigns reported in the scientific literature for the Richmond river basin. The Richmond River County Council monitors electrical conductivity, pH, dissolved oxygen, temperature and turbidity at four locations within the estuary.

The NSW Office of Water conducts two types of monitoring: continuous monitoring in river gauging stations and targeted monitoring campaigns for a specific duration and purpose (NSW Office of Water, 2014). The remainder of this section will include a description of these two types of water quality monitoring products.

1.5.2.1.1 Water quality in the Richmond river basin

Continuous monitoring

Of the active streamflow gauging sites in the Richmond river basin there are only two with continuous salinity and water temperature measurement datasets that are over one year in duration. These two gauges are Bungawalbyn (203450) and Richmond at Oakland Road (203470) and both are stations that only report river level as they are within the tidal zone of the basin. Monitoring of water quality parameters (salinity and temperature) at these two locations only commenced in early 2013. Data on the same parameters is also available for the Richmond River at Coraki (203403) but only since early 2014.

The data for Bungawalbyn (203450) and Richmond at Oakland Road (203470) can be seen in Figure 9 and Figure 10 for the 2013 to 2014 water year. For both sites, the monitoring locations exhibit seasonal water temperature characteristics which are likely to reflect variations in incoming solar radiation. On the other hand the salinity (expressed as electrical conductivity) in both systems seems to exhibit an increasing trend through the dry season, possibly in relation to decreases in baseflow and larger tidal influence, and then an abrupt decrease following a large flow event in March 2014. The salinity at Bungawalbyn ranges from 200 µS/cm after a large flow has been through the system (indicated by a big change in level) to nearly 1300 µS/cm before the next flushing event. A similar trend is shown at the Richmond River at Oakland Road although at this site maximum salinity is less than 800 µS/cm. These systems experience quite large ranges of salinity which may reflect variations in baseflow and tidal influences.

Figure 9

Figure 9 Stream level (top), electrical conductivity (middle) and water temperature (bottom) at gauge 203450 Bungawalbyn for the 2013 to 2014 water year for the Clarence‑Moreton bioregion

Data: NSW Office of Water (Dataset 3)

Figure 10

Figure 10 Stream level (top), electrical conductivity (middle) and water temperature (bottom) at gauge 203470 Richmond at Oakland Road for the 2013 to 2014 water year for the Clarence‑Moreton bioregion

Data: NSW Office of Water (Dataset 3)

Targeted monitoring

A range of other water sampling campaigns have also been undertaken to collect data for various reports and projects; some of these are summarised below. There are two main datasets to draw upon here: 1) the NSW Department of Environment and Heritage Historic Water Quality Data (Dataset 1), and 2) NSW Office of Water Data (Dataset 2).

State of the catchments – Northern Rivers Region (Dataset 1)

In 2010, the NSW Government undertook a State of the catchments report for the Northern Rivers region, which includes the Richmond river basin (DECCW, 2010). In this report trends in water temperature, electrical conductivity and turbidity were presented for Richmond River at Kyogle, Wilson River at Eltham and Richmond River at Casino. This report acknowledges that there is low confidence in electrical conductivity and temperature data due to data gaps and errors and medium confidence in turbidity which was not measured past 2000.

Water Quality of Tweed, Brunswick, Richmond and Clarence rivers (Dataset 1)

This is an extensive dataset of more than 500 samples collected from 48 locations between 15 May 1994 and 12 April 1995. Water quality parameters available include turbidity, total phosphorus, total nitrogen, pH and temperature.

Other data (Dataset 1)

There are also two very small datasets which form part of the Coastal State Recreation Areas dataset (samples in 2006 and 2008) and the Monitoring River Health Initiative (samples collected between 1994 and 1999) (Turak et al., 2000). These both include measurements of electrical conductivity, turbidity, pH and temperature. The Coastal State Recreation Areas dataset has measurements for four locations in the Richmond river basin, while the Monitoring River Health Initiative dataset includes targeted observation from 31 sites with data collected six monthly.

New South Wales Office of Water dataset (Dataset 2)

The NSW Office of Water has a very large database of water quality data collected over many years and includes data collected at locations in the Richmond river basin. The types of water quality parameters collected in the Richmond river basin are extremely diverse (e.g. nutrients, temperature, and aquatic biota) but the three most commonly reported parameters are electrical conductivity (>2900 readings), pH (>2200 readings) and turbidity (>1890 readings). The locations where electrical conductivity was measured, the number of samples collected and their mean, minimum and maximum values are shown in Table 11. Matching analysis for pH and turbidity readings is shown in Table 12 and Table 13, respectively.

The Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Freshwater and Marine Water Quality (ANZECC/ARMCANZ, 2000) sets acceptable levels for electrical conductivity in the upland and lowland rivers of NSW catchments at between 30 and 350 µS/cm, and 125 and 2200 µS/cm, respectively. Mean values for the Richmond river basin fall within this range however maximum values exceed these ranges at times. Higher electrical conductivity values in the lowland areas are likely to reflect tidal influences in the lower reaches of the Richmond River.

Table 11 Sampling locations, gauge number, number of samples collected and mean, maximum and minimum electrical conductivity measurements for the Clarence‑Moreton bioregion


Station name

Station number

Number of samples

Mean

(µS/cm)

Maximum

(µS/cm)

Minimum

(µS/cm)

Coopers Creek at Repentance

203002

113

76

108

30

Richmond River at Casino

203004

212

314

625

1

Richmond River at Wiangaree

203005

70

240

408

116

Lynchs Creek at Wiangaree

203006

65

155

545

50

Terania Creek at Blakes

203007

49

132

839

32

Back Creek at Bentley

203009

96

475

700

105

Leycester Creek at Rocky Valley

203010

112

416

1080

120

Byron Creek at Binnaburra

203012

108

110

345

58

Wilsons River at Federal

203013

94

93

267

57

Wilsons River at Eltham

203014

262

103

330

1

Goolmangar Coffee Camp

203015

81

235

440

73

Upper Horseshoe Creek

203017

70

164

265

83

Eden Creek at Upper Eden

203018

67

233

320

130

Eden Creek at The Ford

203019

3

224

300

130

Terania Creek at Keerong

203022

82

125

850

36

Ironpot Creek at Toonumbar

203023

191

197

412

16

Coopers Creek at Ewing Bridge

203024

88

94

343

41

Maron Creek at Alstonville

203025

53

90

152

60

Richmong River at Grevillia

203026

47

860

1500

348

Findon Creek at Terrace Creek

203027

63

287

385

170

Fawcetts Plain

203028

85

261

452

90

Myrtle Creek at Rappville

203030

78

300

865

121

Eden Creek at Ettrick

203032

90

384

535

154

Ironpot Creek at Toonumbar VG

203033

7

167

193

137

Eden Creek at Doubtful

203034

92

393

1230

243

Ironpot Creek at Ettrick

203035

107

297

2010

83

Giggergunyah Range River

203036

19

67

81

39

Duck Creek at Alstonville

203037

97

75

249

43

Peraces Creek at Booyong

203038

100

100

135

62

Maguires Creek at Teven

203039

88

105

599

54

Gum Creek at Rous Mill

203040

23

70

150

54

Shannon Brook at Yorklea

203041

96

993

2970

120

Battens Bight at Camir

203044

23

130

286

77

Myall Creek at Gibberagee

203045

27

297

1000

73

Bennys Creek at Eureka

203046

1

96

96

96

Richmond River at Kyogle

203900

67

267

375

143

Goolmangar Creek at Nimbin

203901

7

326

1000

132

Data: NSW Office of Water (Dataset 2)

The Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Freshwater and Marine Water Quality (ANZECC/ARMCANZ, 2000) sets acceptable pH in the upland and lowland rivers of NSW catchments at between 6.5 and 7, and 6.5 and 8, respectively. Mean values are at times outside of these values and maximum and minimum values often sit outside of the guideline values.

Table 12 Sampling locations, gauge number, number of samples collected and mean, maximum and minimum pH measurements for the Clarence‑Moreton bioregion


Station name

Station number

Number of samples

Mean

(pH)

Maximum

(pH)

Minimum

(pH)

Coopers Creek at Repentance

203002

82

7.1

8.6

6.6

Richmond River at Casino

203004

182

7.8

9.2

6.3

Richmond River at Wiangaree

203005

71

7.6

8.3

7.2

Lynchs Creek at Wiangaree

203006

44

7.4

7.8

7.1

Terania Creek at Blakes

203007

47

7.1

7.6

6.7

Back Creek at Bentley

203009

62

7.6

8.1

7.2

Leycester Creek at Rocky Valley

203010

76

7.4

8.1

7.0

Byron Creek at Binnaburra

203012

83

7.1

7.6

6.2

Wilsons River at Federal

203013

62

7.1

8.1

6.6

Wilsons River at Eltham

203014

116

6.9

7.6

5.9

Goolmangar Coffee Camp

203015

51

7.2

7.6

6.9

Upper Horseshoe Creek

203017

45

7.5

8.0

7.0

Eden Creek at Upper Eden

203018

46

7.5

8.0

7.2

Terania Creek at Keerong

203022

46

7.1

7.6

6.8

Ironpot Creek at Toonumbar

203023

177

7.4

8.4

6.0

Coopers Creek at Ewing Bridge

203024

53

7.0

7.4

6.3

Maron Creek at Alstonville

203025

53

6.7

7.5

6.2

Richmong River at Grevillia

203026

47

7.8

8.4

7.4

Findon Creek at Terrace Creek

203027

43

7.7

8.6

6.9

Fawcetts Plain

203028

53

7.4

7.9

7.0

Myrtle Creek at Rappville

203030

78

6.9

7.7

6.3

Eden Creek at Ettrick

203032

62

7.6

8.4

7.3

Ironpot Creek at Toonumbar VG

203033

1

7.2

7.2

7.2

Eden Creek at Doubtful

203034

66

7.6

8.2

7.3

Ironpot Creek at Ettrick

203035

81

7.5

8.3

7.1

Giggergunyah Range River

203036

18

6.8

7.1

6.5

Duck Creek at Alstonville

203037

75

6.6

7.5

6.0

Peraces Creek at Booyong

203038

78

7.0

7.3

6.0

Maguires Creek at Teven

203039

89

7.0

8.1

6.2

Gum Creek at Rous Mill

203040

2

7.4

7.6

7.2

Shannon Brook at Yorklea

203041

96

7.6

8.8

6.9

Battens Bight at Camir

203044

24

6.6

7.3

6.0

Myall Creek at Gibberagee

203045

24

6.7

7.5

6.3

Bennys Creek at Eureka

203046

1

7.1

7.1

7.1

Richmond River at Kyogle

203900

64

7.7

8.6

7.3

Goolmangar Creek at Nimbin

203901

6

7.4

7.8

6.5

Data: NSW Office of Water (Dataset 2)

The Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Freshwater and Marine Water Quality (ANZECC/ARMCANZ, 2000) sets acceptable levels for turbidity in the upland and lowland rivers of NSW catchments at between 2 and 25 NTU (Nephelometric Turbidity Unit), and 6 and 50 NTU, respectively. Mean values for the Richmond river basin fall within these ranges however maximum values exceed these ranges at times.

Table 13 Sampling locations, gauge number, number of samples collected and mean, maximum and minimum turbidity measurements for the Clarence‑Moreton bioregion


Station name

Station number

Number of samples

Mean

(NTU)

Maximum

(NTU)

Minimum

(NTU)

Coopers Creek at Repentance

203002

68

3.1

22.0

0.7

Richmond River at Casino

203004

196

12.0

232.0

0.1

Richmond River at Wiangaree

203005

57

2.5

18.0

0.5

Lynchs Creek at Wiangaree

203006

34

2.2

18.0

0.4

Terania Creek at Blakes

203007

35

4.5

50.0

0.9

Back Creek at Bentley

203009

41

4.7

54.0

0.4

Leycester Creek at Rocky Valley

203010

62

8.6

150.0

0.6

Byron Creek at Binnaburra

203012

70

3.0

15.0

0.6

Wilsons River at Federal

203013

51

3.1

16.0

0.8

Wilsons River at Eltham

203014

217

5.5

45.0

0.6

Goolmangar Coffee Camp

203015

39

3.4

15.0

0.6

Upper Horseshoe Creek

203017

33

3.8

27.0

0.4

Eden Creek at Upper Eden

203018

36

3.9

25.0

0.4

Terania Creek at Keerong

203022

36

3.6

20.0

0.8

Ironpot Creek at Toonumbar

203023

82

6.2

70.0

0.5

Coopers Creek at Ewing Bridge

203024

43

3.8

24.0

0.8

Maron Creek at Alstonville

203025

42

3.4

15.0

0.8

Richmong River at Grevillia

203026

37

5.5

52.0

0.4

Findon Creek at Terrace Creek

203027

33

3.6

23.0

0.4

Fawcetts Plain

203028

43

5.0

45.0

0.4

Myrtle Creek at Rappville

203030

65

7.4

44.0

0.8

Eden Creek at Ettrick

203032

50

3.1

25.0

0.3

Ironpot Creek at Toonumbar VG

203033

1

2.1

2.1

2.1

Eden Creek at Doubtful

203034

54

6.1

60.0

0.6

Ironpot Creek at Ettrick

203035

68

5.9

84.0

0.6

Giggergunyah Range River

203036

10

2.1

7.9

0.7

Duck Creek at Alstonville

203037

61

3.4

67.5

0.6

Peraces Creek at Booyong

203038

66

2.6

19.0

0.7

Maguires Creek at Teven

203039

74

2.6

14.0

0.7

Gum Creek at Rous Mill

203040

1

8.0

8.0

8.0

Shannon Brook at Yorklea

203041

80

15.2

434.0

0.7

Battens Bight at Camir

203044

19

24.4

67.0

1.6

Myall Creek at Gibberagee

203045

24

23.1

305.0

1.8

Bennys Creek at Eureka

203046

1

7.1

7.1

7.1

Richmond River at Kyogle

203900

57

5.5

170.0

0.4

Goolmangar Creek at Nimbin

203901

6

5.3

11.0

3.0

Data: NSW Office of Water (Dataset 2)

1.5.2.1.2 Gaps

There is a lack of data on the presence of hydrocarbons as a result of coal mining and CSG operation and development. These data are important for reasons outlined in Section 1.5.2.1.

References

ANZECC/ARMCANZ (2000) National Water Quality Management Strategy: Paper No 4 - Australian and New Zealand guidelines for fresh and marine water quality: Volume 1 – The Guidelines. Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand, Commonwealth of Australia, Australia.

DECCW (2010) State of the Catchments 2010. Riverine Ecosystems. Northern Rivers Region. Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW, Report DECCW 2010/422.

NLWRA (2001) National Land and Water Resources Audit. Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, ACT.

NLWRA (2002a) Australian catchment, river and estuary assessment 2002: volume 1, National Land and Water Resources Audit, Canberra, ACT.

NLWRA (2002b) Australian catchment, river and estuary assessment 2002: volume 2, National Land and Water Resources Audit, Canberra, ACT.

NSW Office of Water (2014) Two types of water quality data. NSW Office of Water. Viewed 10 December 2014, http://waterinfo.nsw.gov.au/wq/intro.shtml.

Rassam D, Raiber M, McJannet D, Janardhanan S, Murray J, Gilfedder M, Cui T, Matveev V, Doody T, Hodgen M and Ahmad ME (2014) Context statement for the Clarence-Moreton bioregion. Product 1.1 from the Clarence-Moreton Bioregional Assessment. Department of the Environment, Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO and Geoscience Australia, Australia. Viewed 20 July 2015, http://data.bioregionalassessments.gov.au/product/CLM/CLM/1.1.

Turak E, Hose G and Waddell N (2000) Australia-wide Assessment of River Health: New South Wales Bioassessment Report (NSW Final Report), Monitoring River Health Initiative Technical Report no 2a, Commonwealth of Australia and NSW Environment Protection Authority, Canberra and Sydney.

Datasets

Dataset 1 NSW Department of Environment and Heritage (2009) NSW Department of Environment and Heritage Historic Water Quality Data. Bioregional Assessment Source Dataset. Viewed 23 March 2015, https://data.bioregionalassessments.gov.au/datastore/dataset/4c5f7318-2567-4614-aa35-46aa0eb045f2.

Dataset 2 NSW Office of Water (2013) NSW Office of Water Surface Water Quality Extract 28_nov_2013. Bioregional Assessment Source Dataset. Viewed 23 March 2015, https://data.bioregionalassessments.gov.au/datastore/dataset/21234479-eabe-46f9-8af5-9f30847a18ba.

Dataset 3 NSW Office of Water (2015) Richmond stream gauge data. Bioregional Assessment Source Dataset. Viewed 23 March 2015, https://data.bioregionalassessments.gov.au/datastore/dataset/03f59f6b-8d06-4513-b662-db7c4c2d2909.

Last updated:
9 September 2016