Environmental quality of water is expected to improve in Australia and New Zealand thanks to research that transforms water quality guidelines.
The University of Queensland has been part of a joint research effort to develop a new method to help define the acceptable conventional concentration of chemicals in waterways.
The UQ School of Earth and Environmental Sciences researcher Dr. Michael Warne said the work, which will help protect marine ecosystems, was part of the amendment of Australia and New Zealand guidelines for the quality of marine and marine water.
"Australia and New Zealand are leading the way with our new guidelines that incorporate scientific developments since 2000, when they were recently updated," he said.
"Now we can be much more confident that our ecosystems will be protected.
"The new method helps develop guidelines for some 60 high-priority chemicals, mainly pesticides, metals, industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
"This means we can continue to make sure our waterways are not toxic to thousands of species, from fish to microalgae, because we share these resources with."
Dr. Warne said his decades of clean road work in Australia was inspired by the book Quiet spring By Rachel Carson.
"It made me understand the importance of water quality to ecosystem health and the harmful effects of pesticides," he said.
"When I learned about the criteria for water quality in the United States for chemicals in water, it suddenly clicked – by working in this space I can help protect marine ecosystems."
Dr. Warren said there was still room for improvement.
"These guidelines are designed to protect organisms from the effects of individual chemicals, but organisms are usually exposed to mixtures of different chemicals," he said.
"Now I am focusing my research, along with my colleagues from DES, on developing a method to measure the effects of mixtures of chemicals.
"There is simply no room for complacency, especially on issues such as the quality of water being pumped into the Great Barrier Reef and the quality of water in many urban waterways.
"We need to continue to work for better water quality, not only for ourselves, but also for the life that thrives on our waterways."
The partners in the project are the partners of the Department of Environment and Science of Queensland (DES), CSIRO, the Environment Research Institute of the Chief Scientist, the NSW EPA, Environmetrics and the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (New Zealand).
Top left image: Dr. Michael Warne takes water samples in the field.