Bore water (groundwater)
Chemicals such as heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (petroleum hydrocarbons, chlorinated hydrocarbons and other organic compounds), pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and nitrates are present in some areas of groundwater.
While private users are not legally required to do so, SA Health advises to test bore water regularly and ensure it is safe for its intended use. The Australian Water Quality Centre (tel: 1300 653 366) can test for the above chemicals for a fee. If you require any assistance interpreting the results, please call the EPA on (08) 8204 2004.
Preventing extraction of contaminated groundwater is necessary to protect human health and also to prevent the spread of contamination. This can also be caused by drawing water towards a property if the groundwater is being extracted from a bore.
If contamination is discovered it is a legal requirement under the Environment Protection Act 1993 to notify the EPA. Notification also enables residents, industry and government to protect current and future generations from contamination caused by industrial practices of the past.
Mains water and water from rainwater tanks are not affected by this contamination and home grown fruit and vegetables are safe to consume, provided they are not being watered with contaminated bore water.
If you have any questions, are interested in learning more about Adelaide’s groundwater or would like to join a group for residents to work with the EPA on the management of this issue in your area, please contact us on tel: 1800 729 175 or email .
Groundwater contamination areas
The Environment Protection Act 1993 requires property owners, occupiers, consultants and auditors to notify the EPA of site contamination that affects or threatens groundwater. This information is available to the public in the following ways:
Groundwater prohibition areas
If groundwater is affected by contamination and there is a likelihood that it may be used for domestic or irrigation purposes, the EPA has powers to establish a groundwater prohibition area to protect both future and current landholders. Under section 103S of the Environment Protection Act 1993, the EPA may prohibit or restrict the taking of groundwater if there is sufficient evidence to confirm it may be harmful to human health or safety.
The EPA established groundwater prohibition areas in Allenby Gardens–Flinders Park and Edwardstown and surrounding suburbs after community consultation. Groundwater use to certain depths is prohibited to be used for any purpose and a maximum penalty of $8,000 applies. Councils and schools typically use much deeper groundwater from the Tertiary aquifer, which is not affected by the contamination. The EPA will consider the establishment of a groundwater prohibition area at the conclusion of the assessment work.
An EPA investigation (assessment) area may be identified by the EPA where information on site contamination identifies the need for potential risks to human health to be assessed within a large area. Current assessment areas being assessed by liable parties and the EPA, where the site has no liable party.
Site contamination index
You can search the site contamination index for notifications and reports that relate to your suburb or town. Specific information on each of these sites can then be obtained from the EPA. This list is not exhaustive, and further information can sometimes be obtained by making an enquiry under the Public Register.
The EPA has a wealth of monitoring data, technical publications, information sheets, guidelines and reports relating to its core activities of licensing environmental activities and enforcing standards that industries, companies and even individuals must meet.
Legislation requires the EPA to have a public register and to make information available for the public to inspect. If you can’t find what you’re looking for on our website, you may be able to request documents via the Public Register Officer.
Frequently asked questions
Is bore water safe to use?
It depends – bore water can be safe to use provided it is regularly tested and testing confirms that it is safe.
Testing bore water, especially from shallow aquifers, is required before drinking (including washing, food preparation, cooking, making ice or watering edible plants), bathing, filling a pool, pumping through a sprinkler or topping up a rainwater tank.
Water sourced from deeper confined aquifers (50 metres or more) with intact casing and a well-head protected from contamination by surface run-off is generally of higher quality. Testing can inform you as to which aquifer you are using if you are unsure.
Is testing my bore water my responsibility?
Whilst private users aren’t legally required to do so, SA Health advises residents to test bore water regularly and ensure it is safe for its intended use. The Australian Water Quality Centre can test your bore water (and rain water, which is not affected by this issue) – further information is available on the testing section of their website.
Who can help me interpret my test results?
For assistance interpreting your test results, and understanding whether they are above set criteria for which the water is being used, please phone the EPA on (08) 8204 2004.
What happens if my bore water is contaminated?
If you are advised that your bore water is contaminated, please do not use it for any purpose.
You will also need to notify the EPA on tel: (08) 8204 2004 or 1800 729 175 (country callers) or email.
Is reporting contamination my responsibility?
Preventing extraction of contaminated groundwater is necessary to protect human health and also to prevent the spread of contamination. If groundwater contamination is discovered, it is a legal requirement under the Environment Protection Act 1993 to notify the EPA.
Notifying the EPA also enables residents, industry and government to protect current and future generations from contamination caused by historical industrial practices – and ensures responsible parties take action to clean up contaminated sites.
What happens after I notify the EPA of groundwater contamination?
The EPA is required to place this notification on its public register. The responsible party (or the EPA) also advises the affected community if a risk to public health is confirmed.
Future purchasers of land will be advised via the Form 1 letter that is provided at the time of sale, which advises that the EPA holds information on the property in relation to site contamination.