Salinity Trading Scheme improving water quality in the Hunter

The Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme is helping to ensure that salinity targets in the Hunter River are being met, but further improvements to the Scheme will increase its effectiveness, according to a submission on the Scheme lodged by the NSW Minerals Council.

“It’s great that salinity levels in the Hunter River have improved following the introduction in 2002 of salinity concentration targets within the Scheme,” NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said.

“Salinity is an important factor of water quality so improved salinity levels should mean a healthier Hunter River.”

“It’s also encouraging that the health of the Hunter River is considered, on average, to be good. Nevertheless, some small aquatic species within some parts of the river are experiencing poor health, so as part of our submission, we’re calling on the NSW Government to investigate the source of these hot-spots.”

The NSW Minerals Council’s submission into the review of the Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme recommended a number of other opportunities for improving the Scheme and its environmental effectiveness.

The Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme uses a market-based mechanism to buy and sell rights for mines to discharge saline water during periods of high and flood flow. Discharging saline water during higher flows ensures that it is sufficiently diluted – keeping salinity concentrations below target levels.

Dischargers, including mines and power stations, have in the past few years contributed approximately 13-20 per cent of the entire salt load of the Hunter River at Singleton, compared with over 75 per cent as a result of natural processes, such as dryland salinity.

“To date, the Scheme has been successful in ensuring salinity objectives in the Hunter River are met while still allowing mines to discharge. Mines are sometimes storing water with lower salinity levels than is naturally present in the Hunter River. It would make sense to discharge this high quality water during lower flows to help ensure the Scheme’s salinity objectives,” Mr Galilee said.
“Part of the excess revenue generated in selling the rights to discharge saline water could then be used to fund further research into maintaining the health of the river system.”

In addition to the NSW Minerals Council’s submission, the Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue’s Water Working Group has been eagerly anticipating the results of the review of the Scheme and will continue to monitor water quality issues in the Hunter River.

The Working Group was established to discuss and deal with community concerns around water related impacts from mining in the Upper Hunter region.

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