Adelaide
Physical information

General description

Area: 5,340 km²

Population: 1,350,000 (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012a)

The Adelaide region is located in the southeast of South Australia, on the east coast of the Gulf St Vincent (Figure P1). It extends from the Barossa Valley in the north to the Fleurieu Peninsula in the south, and includes metropolitan Adelaide, the Northern Adelaide Plains and the Western Mount Lofty Ranges (Figure P2). The terrain in the region ranges from flat plains near the coast to steep hills in the east and south.


Figure P1. Location map of the Adelaide region
Figure P1. Location map of the Adelaide region



Figure P2. Contextual map of the Adelaide region
Figure P2. Contextual map of the Adelaide region


The Adelaide region (Figure P2) is physically defined by the hydrological boundaries of the five main drainage basins located in the Adelaide region (Figure P3). These are based on their location (north to south) within the Adelaide region and include the following basins:

  • Part of the Gawler River drainage basin is located within the Adelaide region (4,460 km2 in total; 2,070 km2 or 46% within the Adelaide region). This includes the Gawler River, the North Para River, the South Para River and tributaries, which flow west from the northern Mount Lofty Ranges to the Gulf St Vincent. The Light River is contained within the Gawler River drainage basin, but is not located with the Adelaide region (Figure P3).
  • River Torrens drainage basin (1,190 km2) includes the River Torrens and the Little Para River. The River Torrens flows from the Mount Lofty Ranges through Kangaroo Creek Dam to Adelaide and then to the Gulf St Vincent.
  • Onkaparinga River drainage basin (960 km2), which flows west from the southern Mount Lofty Ranges to Hahndorf, then through Mount Bold Reservoir to the Gulf St Vincent.
  • Myponga River drainage basin (155 km2), which flows into the Myponga Reservoir and then southwest to the Gulf St Vincent.
  • Fleurieu Peninsula drainage basin (1,050 km2) includes several smaller rivers, such as the Bungala and Yankalilla rivers, that flow west into the Gulf St Vincent and the Hindmarsh and Inman rivers that flow southeast into the Southern Ocean.

The Adelaide region approximates the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management (NRM) Board region. The NRM region is approximately 10% larger than the Adelaide region due to the fact that the NRM boundary is modified to incorporate administrative boundaries (i.e. local council and property boundaries).


Figure P3. Map of surface water drainage basins in the Adelaide region
Figure P3. Map of surface water drainage basins in the Adelaide region

Scope of the Adelaide region water account

The Adelaide region includes water stored in and transactions related to:

  • surface water storages in the region
  • rivers within the region
  • water held in storages, pipes and infrastructure as part of urban water supply and wastewater collection systems
  • groundwater aquifers beneath the region
  • irrigation schemes within the region.

The region excludes water stored in and transactions related to:

  • off-channel water storages, such as farm dams and private commercial water storages
  • estuaries
  • water held in the landscape, such as soil moisture, and water held in wetlands that are not connected to rivers.

For more information regarding items in this water accounting report, please refer to the Water accounting policies.

Land use

The dominant land use in the Adelaide region is agriculture and urban (Table P1 and Figure P4).

The major cities and towns in the region, along with their population, are (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012b):

  • Adelaide metropolitan area (including Gawler) – 1,225,235
  • Nuriootpa – 5,968
  • Victor Harbor – 13,842.

There are five irrigation districts in the region with most irrigation water being self-extracted. There are three major irrigation schemes within the region that supply water for viticulture, horticulture and irrigated pasture.

Overall, manufacturing is not a large user of water in the Adelaide region although some manufacturers are locally intensive water users. Major water intensive industries include wineries, brewing, beverage production, food and fibre processing, concrete and soda production (Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board 2008; Ryan 2008; Zulfic, Osei-Bonsu & Barnett et al. 2008).

Table P1. Land use in the Adelaide region
Land use Area (km2) Area (% of total)
Conservation and natural environments 718 14
Grazing 1,826 34
Forestry 160 3
Dryland agriculture 836 16
Irrigated agriculture 488 9
Urban 1,089 20
Other intensive uses 73 1
Mining 17 <1
Water 125 2
Total 5,332* ~100

(Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics – Bureau of Rural Sciences 2010).

* This area is less than the total region area reported in General description above due to the spatial resolution of the land use data.


Figure P4: Map of land use in the Adelaide region
Figure P4: Map of land use in the Adelaide region

Significant aquatic ecosystems

The region contains several nationally significant wetlands listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia (Table P2).

Table P2. Nationally significant wetlands in the Adelaide region
Wetland Description

Cleland Perched Swamps

Ecosystems dependent on waterlogged and peat soils maintained by surface and groundwater inflows

Englebrook Reserve

Open forest and swamp ecosystems

Washpool Lagoon

Freshwater coastal lagoon

Onkaparinga Estuary

Estuarine ecosystem with tidal swamps

Port Gawler & Buckland Park Lake

Estuarine ecosystem on mud flats and mangrove swamps

Barker Inlet & St Kilda

Significant marine ecosystem on mud flats and mangrove swamps

Illawong Swamp

Ecosystems dependent on waterlogged and peat soils

Maylands Swamp

Stipiturus Conservation Park (Glenshera Swamp)

Gold Diggings Swamp

Congeratinga Swamp

Upper Boat Harbour Creek Wetlands

Upper Hindmarsh River Catchment

Water resources

Water used in the region comes from the following sources:

  • surface water including watercourses
  • groundwater
  • local catchment harvesting
  • River Murray water transferred into the region by pipeline
  • recycled stormwater and wastewater.

Some surface resources within the region are fully developed, while others have scope for further development. This is illustrated in a comparison of demand versus sustainable extraction limit for surface water management zones in the Western Mount Lofty Ranges Prescribed Water Resources Area.

Groundwater resources are generally fully developed; some groundwater resources of the Northern Adelaide Plains and Mt Lofty Ranges are considered to be overdeveloped. This is shown in a comparison of demand versus sustainable extraction limit for groundwater management zones in the Western Mount Lofty Ranges Prescribed Water Resources Area.

Recycled stormwater and wastewater are used increasingly for agricultural and municipal irrigation, and industrial purposes. There is scope for further development of recycled water; policies are in place to support this.

Surface water

The Adelaide region surface water resources include the drainage basins described in the General description section of the Contextual information. Several surface water storages and weirs (operated by SA Water) are also located on these rivers within the Adelaide region. The water in these storages and weirs is predominantly for urban water use.

Storages that are located off the river and used to service urban water treatment plants are classified as part of the urban water system (refer to the Other water resources and distribution systems section of the Contextual information). For more information regarding why these storages were classified as part of the urban water system, please refer to the Water accounting policies.

The surface water storages and weirs that supply the urban water system are detailed in Table P3. 

Table P3. Surface water storage and weir capacity
Surface water storages Total storage capacity (ML) Dead storage (ML)
Kangaroo Creek Reservoir              19,000                     300
Little Para Reservoir              20,800                     188
Millbrook Reservoir              16,500                     188
Mount Bold Reservoir              45,900                        27
Myponga Reservoir              26,800                     163
South Para Reservoir              44,800                     310
Warren Reservoir                4,770                        22
Barossa Weir 136
0
Clarendon Weir 320 2
Gorge Weir 24 0
Gumeracha Weir 200 0
TOTAL           179,250                  1,200


The location of the surface water storages and weirs in the Adelaide region are provided in Figure P5.


Figure P5. Map of surface water storages and weirs in the Adelaide region
Figure P5. Map of surface water storages and weirs in the Adelaide region

Groundwater

Groundwater is an important water resource in the Adelaide region for both irrigation, and stock and domestic supply. The major groundwater resources are:

  • Northern Adelaide Plains and Central Adelaide (Adelaide Plains) – Tertiary 1 and Tertiary 2 aquifers
  • McLaren Vale – Port Willunga Formation and Maslin Sands aquifers
  • Barossa – upper, lower and fractured rock aquifers
  • Western Mount Lofty Ranges – fractured rock aquifers.

Groundwater generally flows west from the higher rainfall recharge areas in the Western Mount Lofty Ranges towards the St Vincent Basin (Stewart, Banks & Wilson 2009). Lateral inflow is the main mechanism for recharge of the coastal aquifers.

Significant areas of groundwater use and groundwater management areas are presented in Table P4.


Table P4. Significant areas of groundwater use and groundwater management areas in the Adelaide region
Groundwater area Groundwater management area Hydrogeology Primary use
Barossa Barossa Prescribed Water Resources Area Confined, unconfined and fractured rock aquifers Viticulture
Central Adelaide Central Adelaide Prescribed Wells Area Confined, unconfined and fractured rock aquifers Mixed horticulture, industrial, domestic, irrigation of recreational areas
Northern Adelaide Plains Northern Adelaide Plains Prescribed Wells Area Mostly confined aquifers Mixed horticulture, industrial
McLaren Vale McLaren Vale Prescribed Wells Area Confined, unconfined and fractured rock aquifers Viticulture, horticulture
Adelaide Hills Western Mount Lofty Ranges Prescribed Water Resources Area Mostly fractured rock aquifers Mixed horticulture, irrigated pasture, viticulture
Southern Fleurieu Peninsula Western Mount Lofty Ranges Prescribed Water Resources Area Mostly fractured rock aquifers with some confined and unconfined aquifers Mixed horticulture, irrigated pasture, viticulture

Other water resources and distribution systems

Urban water system

The urban water system includes water and wastewater treatment plants, pipes, tanks and urban storages. All of this urban infrastructure is operated by SA Water and is described in further detail in Table P5. Urban water storages are also described in Table P6.

Table P5. Urban system infrastructure in the Adelaide region

Infrastructure

Operation

Major use

Mannum–Adelaide Pipeline

Delivers River Murray water to the urban water system

Urban

Murray Bridge–Onkaparinga Pipeline

Delivers River Murray water to the urban water system

Urban

Swan Reach–Stockwell Pipeline

Delivers River Murray water to the urban water system to supply the Barossa Valley and northern Adelaide as well as to urban areas outside the Adelaide region

Urban and irrigation

Metropolitan Adelaide water supply system

Delivers potable water from storages and treatment plants

Urban

Metropolitan Adelaide wastewater system

Delivers wastewater to Adelaide wastewater treatment plants

Urban



Table P6. Urban water storages in the Adelaide region
Urban water storage Total storage capacity (ML) Dead storage capacity (ML)
Barossa Reservoir 4,510 19
Happy Valley Reservoir 12,700 71
Hope Valley Reservoir 2,764 123
Onkaparinga Summit Reservoir 427 64
TOTAL
20,401
277

The urban water infrastucture summarised in Tables P5 and P6, including urban water storages, urban water supply area, water treatment plants, wastewater treatment plants and major pipes that are used to service the Adelaide region's urban water needs are depicted in Figure P6.


Figure P6. Map of urban water supply system infrastructure
Figure P6. Map of urban water supply system infrastructure


Irrigation schemes

Three major irrigation schemes operate in the Adelaide region as described in Table P7.

Table P7. Major irrigation schemes operating in the Adelaide region
Irrigation scheme Location Water sources Purpose
Virginia Pipeline Scheme (VPS) is a public-private partnership between SA Water and Water Infrastructure Group
Refer to the

VPS website

for further information
Services the Virginia and Angle Vale districts in the north of the Adelaide region Recycled water from the Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant Irrigation of 20 different crops including fresh vegetables
Barossa Infrastructure Limited (BIL) is a public company
Refer to the

BIL website

for further information
Services the Barossa Valley The primary source of water is from the River Murray via the Swan Reach–Stockwell Pipeline. Recycled water is also received from the Nuriootpa Community Wastewater Management System
Irrigation water for viticulture
Willunga Basin Water Company (WBWC) is a reclaimed water scheme owned and operated by its users
Refer to the

WBWC website

for further information
Services the McLaren Vale region The primary source of water is recycled water from the Christies Beach Wastewater Treatment Plant
Recycled water is also received from the Willunga Community Wastewater Management System
Predominantly irrigation water for viticulture, but is also used for irrigation of fruit trees, nut crops and flowers


Recycled wastewater

Recycling of wastewater is increasingly significant to the Adelaide region. Approximately 30% of the wastewater treated by SA Water is used in recycled water applications (Office for Water Security 2010). Community wastewater management systems (CWMSs) are another source of treated wastewater; they are typically operated by local councils and harvest water from household septic systems. The most significant recycled wastewater schemes in the Adelaide region are presented in Table P8.

Table P8. Recycled wastewater schemes in the Adelaide region
Recycling facility Volume – approx Purpose Operator
Aldinga Wastewater Treatment Plant 300 ML/year Irrigation of vines SA Water
Bird-in-Hand Wastewater Treatment Plant 100 ML/year Irrigation SA Water
Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant 18,000 ML/year Mainly agricultural irrigation (Virginia Pipeline Scheme), some municipal irrigation and dual reticulation at Mawson Lakes SA Water, United Water
Christies Beach Wastewater Treatment Plant 3,500 ML/year Irrigation of vines (Willunga Basin Water Company) and municipal irrigation
SA Water
Glenelg Wastewater Treatment Plant 2,000 ML/year Irrigation of parks and recreation facilities (Adelaide Park Lands Pipeline) SA Water
Golden Grove Up to 280 ML/year (not yet supplying at capacity) Irrigation of parks and recreation facilities CWMS
Greenock, Kapunda, Freeling, Roseworthy 180 ML/year Irrigation of vines CWMS
Kersbrook, Birdwood/Mount Torrens, Charleston, Woodside, Verdun Unknown Irrigation of woodlands CWMS
Myponga, Yankalilla, Second Valley Unknown Irrigation CWMS
NPEC Wastewater Treatment Plant 250 ML/year Irrigation (reuse of winery wastewater) North Para Environmental Control (NPEC)
Nuriootpa, Lyndoch, Penrice, Mount Pleasant, Tanunda, Williamstown, Springton 700 ML/year Irrigation of vines CWMS
Other SA Water treatment plants (e.g. Angaston, Gumeracha) Individual capacity <100 ML/year Irrigation SA Water
Victor Harbor Wastewater Treatment Plant 150 ML/year Irrigation of horticulture and parks SA Water
Willunga CWMS 340 ML/year Irrigation of vines and recreational facilities (Willunga Basin Water Company) CWMS operated by the City of Onkaparinga
CWMS = Community wastewater management system

(Barossa Council website; Kelly, Stevens & White 2003; Council staff at various councils, pers. comm.; SA Water unpublished WTP records 2010).


Stormwater harvesting

Stormwater harvesting (collection, treatment and use of urban runoff) is of increasing importance to the Adelaide region. The schemes are typically operated by councils and involve treating stormwater through constructed wetlands and storage in aquifers. Treated stormwater is generally used for irrigation of parks and ovals, and industrial processes, such as wool washing.

The current capacity of stormwater schemes is approximately 7,550 ML/year, but many new schemes are in development (Office for Water Security 2010; Stormwater Management Authority 2009).


Desalinated water

A desalination plant is under construction at Port Stanvac. Although, the plant was not operational during 2010–11, it will reduce reliance on surface water by augmenting the urban water supply with up to 100 GL/year of desalinated water from 2011–12.

There are also more than 25 privately and publicly owned desalination plants with an individual capacity greater than 1.8 ML/year in the region. These desalination plants are typically used to improve groundwater, wastewater and mains water quality on a small scale to a standard suitable for irrigation, industry and medical purposes. Desalination of groundwater for food, beverages and industrial processes constitutes 95% of the capacity of desalination plants in the region. 


Off-channel water storages

Off-channel water storages are an important water resource in the Adelaide region. The region hosts in excess of 15,000 off-channel water storages holding more than 39,700 ML of water when full. On average, farm dams harvest around 10% of annual surface water flow, although on a seasonal basis this can be more than 70% in some catchments during the summer and autumn months.

The majority of off-channel water storages in the Adelaide region are filled by runoff from the landscape. Off-channel water storages filled by surface water diversions and groundwater extractions represent only a small proportion of off-channel water storage volume in the Adelaide region. Similarly, off-channel water storages in the Virginia and Angle Vale districts, which are filled from recycled water supplied by the Virginia Pipeline Scheme, also represent only small proportion of off-channel water storage volume in the Adelaide region.

Water held in and abstracted from off-channel water storages is used for a combination of purposes including industrial, irrigation, and stock and domestic purposes. In the Barossa Prescribed Water Resources Area, water from off-channel water storages is predominantly used for irrigation purposes (Barossa PWRA Water Allocation Plan: p26), whereas throughout the rest of the Adelaide region the majority of off-channel water services stock and domestic purposes (Draft Water Allocation Plan for the Western Mount Lofty Ranges PWRA: p63)


Mine, construction and quarry dewatering

Mine dewatering occurs in the Adelaide region to facilitate mining, quarrying and construction activities. Depending on water quality, the water is stored in above-ground storages, discharged into nearby watercourses or aquifers, or applied to the landscape. For example Penrice dewaters the Angaston quarry within the Barossa Prescribed Water Resources Area (Golder Associates 2008).