Australian Government action to address acid sulfate soils

What is the Australian Government doing about the issue of acid sulfate soils?

Developing national guidance for assessing and managing acid sulfate soils

The Australian Government worked together with states, territories and research institutions to produce the National Guidance for the Management of Acid Sulfate Soils in Inland Aquatic Ecosystems.

Assessing acid sulfate soils risks in the Murray-Darling Basin

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority initiated in 2008 a Basin-wide assessment of the spatial extent of, and risk posed by, acid sulfate soils at priority wetlands in the River Murray system, Ramsar wetlands and other key environmental sites in the Murray-Darling Basin and identified management options.

For more information visit the Murray-Darling Basin Authority - Detailed assessment of Acid Sulfate Soils in the Murray-Darling Basin

Supporting the management of water quality

The Australian Government works collaboratively with states and territories and the New Zealand Government to develop and implement the National Water Quality Management Strategy.

The main objective of the Strategy is to achieve sustainable use of the nation's water resources by protecting and enhancing water quality while maintaining economic and social development.

The Australian Government has invested in the development of two regional acid sulfate soils Water Quality Improvement Plans in Far North Queensland and the Mackay Whitsundays regions which are designed to establish planning and management strategies for avoiding acid sulfate soil disturbance and to reduce the impacts of disturbed acid sulfate soils.

Investing in national training

Supported in the initial phases of development by funding from the Australian Government's Caring for our Country Initiative, Southern Cross GeoScience now independently offers the Acid Sulfate Short Course, which focuses on how to prepare and assess an Acid Sulfate Soil Management Plan.

This course is specifically designed for professionals such as consultants, engineers, contractors, scientists, environmental officers and planners. The program was developed in conjunction with the relevant government authorities and provides a unique opportunity for proponents and assessors to discuss different aspects of managing acid sulfate soils.

Courses are held in every state and the Northern Territory, on a demand basis. The first courses attracted unexpected demand and benefited from significant in-kind support from a wide range of stakeholders.

For more information see the Southern Cross GeoScience website

Investing in on-ground activities

Under the Caring for our Country Initiative, investments are being made in on-ground activities that address acid sulfate soils at priority coastal hotspots where such activities are specifically identified in agreed Water Quality Improvement Plans.

Water Quality Improvement Plans seek to deliver significant reductions in pollution being released into aquatic ecosystems with high ecological, social and/or recreational values across Australia.

The Australian Government works in collaboration with states and territories to develop these plans.

Case Study

Taking a long-term approach: snapshot of South Australia

The Australian Government has approved over $167 million in funding to support projects and actions outlined in the South Australian Government's Securing the future: A long-term plan for the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth. The Long Term Plan aims to ensure a sustainable and viable Coorong and Lower Lakes and was developed in consultation with local community groups.

Projects dealing with acid sulfate soils under the plan include:

  • revegetation and limestone treatment of acidification hotspots
  • water and soil quality monitoring to identify acid sulfate soil hazards
  • research leading to the development of an acid sulfate soils management framework.

In addition to these treatments, the water level management projects for Lake Albert and the Goolwa Channel were successful in avoiding acidification during low inflows in South Australia. This was achieved by using temporary structures to keep potential acid sulfate soils inundated with water – as lake levels recovered, these structures were partially removed.

The Australian Government has also provided up to $10 million for bioremediation and revegetation projects that address the risks from the exposure of acid sulfate soils.

Environmental watering

The Australian Government is committed to restoring the health of our rivers.

As part of Murray-Darling Basin reforms, the Australian Government is acquiring water entitlements with the objective of returning more water to the environment. These entitlements become part of the Commonwealth environmental water holdings and are managed so that increased flows are provided to rivers and wetlands.

The water is acquired through direct buybacks of water entitlements from irrigators as well as savings from infrastructure upgrades. This primarily occurs through the following programs:

How much is there?

As at 31 August 2013, the Commonwealth environmental water holdings totalled 1,629,077 ML of registered entitlements.

For more information visit the Office of Commonwealth Environmental Water website

Government contacts

State and territory governments have primary legislative and policy responsibility for land and water resource management, and should be the first point of contact. See the Agency contacts section for further details.