Indicator: CO-28 Quantity of discharges of different substances from humans activities to coastal and marine waters

Data

The following tables show:

  • change in the number of coastal-based facilities (within 10 kilometres and 10-50 kilometres) of the coast reporting emissions under the NPI from 1998 to 2004;
  • change in emissions of the top seven substances (in terms of quantity only) from facilities within 10 kilometres of the coast; and
  • change in average quantity emitted of these pollutants across facilities within 10 kilometres of the coast (to take into account increasing numbers of facilities reporting).

The emissions data provided include only emissions to water, not to air or land.

Number of coastal based facilities reporting emissions to the NPI
Number of facilities 1998-1999 1999-2000 2000-2001 2001-2002 2002-2003 2003-2004
0-10km from coast 400 686 826 956 1090 1142
10-50 km from coast 297 551 691 906 1047 1123
Total number coastal NPI facilities 707 1260 1550 2039 2173 2297
Change in quantities of top seven substances emitted from coastal facilities reporting under the NPI

Year
Substance (million kg)
Total nitrogen Ammonia Total phosphorus Sulfuric acid Boron and compounds Manganese and compounds Fluoride compounds Total number of facilities reporting
1998-1999 33.18 3.45 8.99 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.21 697
1999-2000 61.15 5.1 14.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.65 1237
2000-2001 36.46 15.45 8.74 0.04 0.04 0.04 1.28 1517
2001-2002 32.57 17.34 9.04 3.13 0.17 0.07 1.11 1862
2002-2003 31.1 19.62 8.88 2.8 1.8 0.06 1.08 2137
2003-2004 31.9 19.53 9.07 2.66 1.36 0.05 1.1 2265
Change in average emissions of substance (kg) emitted across facilities
Year Total nitrogen Ammonia Total phosphorus Sulfuric acid Boron and compounds Manganese and compounds Fluoride compounds
1998-1999 47,600 4,950 12,900 0 0 0 30
1999-2000 49,430 4,120 11,880 0 0 0 530
2000-2001 24,030 10,190 5,760 30 30 30 840
2001-2002 17,490 9,310 4,860 1,680 90 40 600
2002-2003 14,550 9,180 4,160 1,310 840 30 510
2003-2004 14,080 8,620 4,000 1,170 600 20 490

Source: Derived from the National Pollutant Inventory

For more detail on number of facilities and quantities of substances emitted by facilities: offshore; within 10 kilometres of the coast; within 10 to 50 kilometres of the coast; and total, refer to the spreadsheet below.

For data on locations of major emissions by a range of types of industry or substance, refer to the following maps, noting that the data used in developing the National Marine Atlas are less recent than the data derived directly from the National Pollutant Inventory.

In relation specifically to oil spills, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) keeps a record of sightings and serious spills. Most of these are from shipping but some are from onshore activities.

SUMMARY OF SERIOUS OIL SPILLS
Date Vessel Location Oil amount
03/03/1970 Oceanic Grandeur  Torres Strait 1,100 tonnes
03/12/1987 Nella Dan  Macquarie Island 125 tonnes
20/05/1988 Korean Star  Cape Cuvier WA 600 tonnes
28/07/1988 Al Qurain  Portland VIC 184 tonnes
21/05/1990 Arthur Phillip  Cape Otway VIC unknown
14/02/1991 Sanko Harvest  Esperance WA 700 tonnes
21/07/1991 Kirki  WA 17,280 tonnes
30/08/1992 Era  Port Bonython SA 300 tonnes
10/07/1995 Iron Baron  Hebe Reef TAS 325 tonnes
28/06/1999 Mobil Refinery  Port Stanvac SA 230 tonnes
03/08/1999 Laura D'Amato  Sydney NSW 250 tonnes

Source: Australian Maritime Safety Authority 2006, Major Oil Spills in Australia, viewed 8 Jun 2006, http://www.amsa.gov.au/Marine_Environment_Protection/
Major_Oil_Spills_in_Australia/index.asp.

OIL SPILL SIGHTING STATISTICS FOR RECENT YEARS
Year Total Number of oil discharge sightings Percentage from ships Percentage from shore Percentage from
exploration
Percentage from other/unknown sources
1995-96 357
1996-97 348
1997-98 254
1998-99 351
1999-2000 353
2000-2001 335
2001-2002 345
2002-2003 300 39 13 2 45
2003-2004 322 40 17 1 42

Source: Australian Maritime Safety Authority 2006, Pollution Incidents, viewed 8 Jun 2006, http://www.amsa.gov.au/Marine_Environment_Protection/National
_Plan/Annual_Reports/AR_2003-2004/Pollution_incidents.asp.

What the data mean

Emissions most likely to be placing pressure on coastal waters are those that are within 10 kilometres of the coast and are discharging directly into coastal waters or coastal freshwater systems. However, facilities within 50 kilometres of the coast are also likely to be discharging into waterways that reach coastal waters with limited time for dilution or dissipation, and may also place pressure on coastal terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems along the way.

The total number of facilities reporting emissions to water, under the NPI, within 50 kilometres of the coast, has increased from 707 in 1998-99 to 2,297 in 2003-2004. The number of facilities reporting discharges to water within 10 kilometres of the coasts has risen from 400 in 1998-99 to 1142 in 2003-04. (Note: this does not mean facilities in these locations have commenced or increased discharges during this period, only that they have commenced reporting those discharges under the NPI.)

Since 1998, total nitrogen has been the most significant emission reported from facilities within ten kilometres of the coast, followed by ammonia, total phosphorus and sulphuric acid. Reported total nitrogen and ammonia emissions have increased over the period, while total phosphorus emissions reported have remained much the same.

Averaged across reporting facilities, nitrogen and ammonia emissions have increased over the period, while average phosphorus emissions have decreased. A reduction in average emissions may reflect that smaller facilities whose emissions are generally lower are the ones that have commenced reporting more recently. However, an increase in average as well as total emissions would suggest that it is emissions as well as number of facilities reporting, that are increasing.

Data Limitations

At this stage the apparent steady increase in reported emissions from coastal-based activities over the years of the NPI is probably more indicative of facilities coming on board with reporting than of actual increases in emissions. This also means that the emissions data currently reported to the NPI are likely to be a very substantial underestimate of actual emissions.

Ultimately, however, it is expected that the trends in reported emissions will be indicative of changes in actual emissions.

The NPI requires reporting of emissions only for substances for which the facility exceeds NPI reporting thresholds. Additionally, some sources are exempt from reporting to the NPI. Extensive agriculture, especially activities such as land clearing and use of pesticides, fertilisers and agricultural combustion engines, also produce emissions but these sources are exempt from reporting to the NPI, even though extensive agriculture may emit quantities of substances that would otherwise qualify for reporting. Data on these emissions are not available from other sources.

Similarly, diffuse emissions from traffic collectively using coastal roads may be discharged into coastal air, water and land in quantities comparable with emissions from NPI reporting facilities but they are not updated regularly and are not included in the facility data.

The table derived from the NPI shows substances by quantity, but does not show their relative harmfulness by weight, for humans, other species or ecosystems. (Most is not necessarily worst.)

Data for the NPI are compiled from facility reports and are only as good as the data provided. Apparent anomalies may be due to errors in the data, or to unusual events at the facilities during the reporting year. Only the emissions, not the activities or events responsible for them, are routinely reported to the NPI.

Issues for which this is an indicator and why

Coasts and Oceans — Direct pressure of human activities on coasts and oceans - Direct pressure of coastal activities (other than shipping and fishing) 

Substances vary enormously in terms of what quantities are dangerous to human health and the environment. Therefore a breakdown, as far as possible, of quantities of all substances discharged from coastal facilities either directly into coastal waters, or into coastal freshwater systems, is required to give an indication of the scale of this pressure.

Other indicators for this issue:

Coasts and Oceans — Contributions and pressures between the coasts and oceans and inland water - Effect of changes in inland waters on the coasts and oceans 

Pollutants that potentially impact on marine biodiversity and marine water quality can enter coastal and marine waters via outfalls of inland waters. Substances vary enormously in terms of what quantities are dangerous to human health and the environment. Therefore a breakdown, as far as possible, of quantities of all substances discharged from coastal facilities either directly into coastal waters, or into coastal freshwater systems, is required to give an indication of the scale of this pressure.

Other indicators for this issue:

Inland Waters — Habitat scale influences — Water Quality (for surface and groundwater) - Other pollutants 

A breakdown, as far as possible, of quantities of all substances discharged from coastal facilities either directly into coastal waters, or into coastal freshwater systems, gives an indication of the scale of the pressure of pollutants on freshwater systems.

Other indicators for this issue:

Biodiversity — Pressures on biodiversity - Pressures on marine biodiversity: pressures of energy and mineral exploration and extraction 

Pollution from activities extracting energy fuels and minerals from land adjacent to coastal waters can place pressure on marine biodiversity. Substances vary enormously in terms of what quantities are dangerous to human health and the environment. Therefore a breakdown, as far as possible, of quantities of all substances discharged from coastal facilities either directly into coastal waters, or into coastal freshwater systems, is required to give an indication of the scale of this pressure.

Other indicators for this issue:

Biodiversity — Pressures on biodiversity - Pressures on marine biodiversity: pressures of coastal activities 

Discharges from coastal facilities can have a significant impact on marine organisms.

Other indicators for this issue:

Human Settlements — Pressures created by human settlements on the environment - Waste 

Waste from coastal activities is one contributor of waste from human settlements.

Other indicators for this issue:

Further Information

Sustainable Grazing Near the Great Barrier Reef, CSIRO, 2005:

Source: Turner L, Tracey D, Tilden J and Dennison WC 2004, Where River Meets Sea: Exploring Australia's Estuaries, Cooperative Research Centre for Coastal Zone, Estuary and Waterway Management, Brisbane.