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Understanding Water Standards in Australia

Water Standards in Australia

Water is a fundamental resource necessary for our daily lives, including cooking, drinking, hygiene, and various other domestic activities. While having access to safe and clean water is a given for almost every Australian household, it’s still advisable to be cautious of the water sources in your home. By understanding the Australian water quality standards, you can ensure that the water you use and consume is safe and meets all the set water regulations and guidelines.

The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines or ADWG serve as a vital reference point to ensure the water provided to people across the country meets high standards of quality. Local government environment officers, irrigators, farmers, jurisdictional authorities, and water quality managers can all use these water guidelines to develop an efficient regional or local water quality management plan.

Drinking Water

According to the drinking water standards in Australia, healthy drinking water is a resource that meets stringent criteria for specific pollutants such as pathogens, nitrates, and heavy metals, making it perfectly safe for human consumption.

The ADWG divides water quality standards into four categories:

Microbial Quality

The water quality parameters in Australia state that drinking water should not contain any harmful concentrations of pathogenic microorganisms or chemicals. Ideally, it should also be aesthetically pleasing in taste, odour, and appearance.

Physical Quality

This constitutes characteristics, like taste, odour, pH, hardness, colour, suspended solids, and temperature. The drinking water standards in Australia state that water should be ‘clean and sparkling’ and acceptable to most people, or else it will be considered a health threat.

Chemical Quality

According to the water guidelines in Australia, drinking water should be free of any inorganic chemicals. These chemicals can come from several different sources, including the natural leaching of manganese and iron, corrosion of fittings and pipes, dissolved salts from land activities, and even carryovers from treatment chemicals.

Radiological Quality

Drinking water can be exposed to radiation through naturally occurring radionuclides, manufactured radionuclides developed for industrial or medical uses, or through human activities like mining. According to the ADWG, it’s essential to regularly screen for radiological concentration to ensure safe drinking water.

Water Testing Requirements in Australia

Under the Public Health Act 2010, it’s mandatory for every drinking water supplier to conduct regular water quality assurance tests. These tests detect water contaminants and help ensure that it meets the drinking water quality standards in Australia. However, if there is a breach of any of these standards, then water suppliers are required to report it to the relevant health authorities.

Along with routine testing, water suppliers should also be suitably equipped to handle any incidents that might affect the safety and quality of the water supply. This includes having emergency response plans for contamination events, natural disasters, and any other emergencies that might negatively impact the supply of water. 


Groundwater is an extremely important resource for drinking water supplies, surface streamflows, water-dependent ecosystems, and industrial and irrigation development. However, the increase in demand and climate change have put pressure on most of Australia’s groundwater resources.

Protecting the quality of groundwater is an extremely important part of maintaining healthy ecosystems and ensuring safe water for future communities and economic development. However, in order to have an effective and efficient groundwater quality management system, it’s fundamental to have the proper government support. Achieving effective groundwater quality protection necessitates a combination of essential factors:

  • Understanding the groundwater protection guidelines and water treatment standards in Australia and how industrial decisions can affect the quality of groundwater.
  • Developing a philosophy that cultivates motivation and responsibility and fosters a long-term commitment to adaptive management.
  • The active and ongoing involvement of the Australian government to reinforce and maintain the importance of efficient groundwater quality management.
  • Strong, clear regulations, policies, and compliance measures.

The groundwater guidelines in Australia focus on adopting a risk-based management approach to protecting and enhancing the quality of groundwater. Territory and state governments can use these water standards to develop regulatory systems and policies suited to their specific resources and legislations.

Understanding and following the water standards in Australia can help establish a unified and harmonious approach to policy-making, regulations, development initiatives, and environmental conservation efforts across different regions. It can also help ensure a cohesive and coordinated approach to managing groundwater resources, protecting our environment, and promoting sustainable development practices.

Water Quality Objectives vs Water Standards in Australia

Water quality objectives are usually confused with Australian water quality standards. While water guidelines and regulations are used to develop water quality objectives, the two are conceptually very different.

Water guidelines in Australia offer a basis for objectives, while the final water quality objectives also take into account economic and social factors. Additionally, objectives include a wider range of characteristics, including habitat, flora and fauna, and physical and flow conditions.

Why Understanding Australian Water Quality Standards Matters

Understanding water standards in Australia is essential for ensuring the safety and quality of the water supply. From drinking water standards to groundwater management, these water regulations in Australia play a critical role in protecting public health and the environment.

By familiarising ourselves with Australian water quality standards and complying with the relevant guidelines, we can confidently consume water that meets the necessary parameters for purity and safety. Additionally, adhering to water testing requirements and treatment standards helps preserve the integrity of water sources, ensuring a sustainable and reliable supply for future generations. By valuing and actively engaging with water regulations, we contribute to the collective effort of maintaining water safety and quality throughout Australia.


What are the drinking water standards in Australia?

Drinking water in Australia should not contain more than 1000 mg/l of TDS (Total Dissolved Solids). Sea water contains around 30,000 mg/l TDS, so mixing even small amounts with fresh water can cause health issues.

What are the Australian water quality standards?

The five water quality parameters include:

  • Suspended solids
  • Total coliform bacteria
  • Dissolved oxygen
  • Biological oxygen demand
  • pH

How do water suppliers measure water quality in Australia?

Water suppliers assess water safety according to the standards set by the Australian government. They test for contaminants and check characteristics, such as colour, salinity, microplastics, micro-organisms, toxic salinity, and suspended sediments. However, the range of indicators is quite broad and can frequently change.

What are the water testing requirements in Australia?

Water testing requirements in Australia include monitoring parameters such as microbiological contaminants, chemical substances, and physical characteristics to assess water quality and compliance with set standards.

How often is drinking water tested in Australia?

It’s recommended to test drinking water once a year to ensure its safety. However, the frequency of testing might change, depending on factors such as the population served, the source of water, and any identified risks.