Groundwater quality

Last updated:27 June 2014

The chemical composition of groundwater affects its suitability for different uses. Groundwater is vulnerable to contamination from a range of activities, such as industrial and agricultural enterprises and changes in land-use.

Poor management of groundwater can cause many significant water quality problems, such as rendering water unfit for human or animal consumption. Major threats to groundwater quality include:

  • salinity
  • acidity
  • nutrients
  • contaminants such as heavy metals, industrial chemicals and pesticides.

Poor groundwater quality can have significant economic impacts by reducing agricultural and horticultural productivity. Polluted groundwater may cause environmental damage where it discharges into waterways and wetlands and adversely impacts on groundwater-dependent ecosystems. Poor quality groundwater can also pose significant risks to human health.

Since 1992 the National Water Quality Management Strategy (NWQMS) has been jointly developed by the Australian Government in cooperation with state and territory governments. The NWQM Strategy provides policies, processes and a series of national guidelines for water quality management. Water quality guidelines place specific constraints on the quality of water that is intended for specific uses.