Monitoring the health of Kakadu's streams

1998

eriss note
Lisa Thurtell, Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist, June 1998

About the note

The Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist (eriss) conducts research into environmental issues relating to mining and wetland management. eriss is located at Jabiru in Kakadu National Park, in Australia's Northern Territory - a World Heritage area renowned for its rich cultural and natural values. Mining and milling of uranium in the Alligator Rivers Region (ARR), including Kakadu, have been under way since 1979.

Based upon its research program, eriss has recommended the adoption of a biological control regime to ensure protection of the aquatic ecosystems of the ARR from the operation of mines in the region. This was in recognition that in this highly-valued area, biological assessment would provide assurance that the highest standards of ecosystem protection would be met. In addition, such methods provide a model for environmental protection in other locations.

The first stage in the control regime involves the use of laboratory-based toxicity testing of any waters that are considered for discharge to streams. Animals tested include fish fry, waterfleas and hydra. These tests determine discharge rates of mine waste waters at which no harm should occur to animals in downstream ecosystems. The second stage consists of a biological monitoring program conducted in downstream ecosystems to demonstrate that the expected high level of environmental protection has been achieved. The biological monitoring program is the subject of this eriss note.