Working together to manage water quality in the Hunter River
June 26, 2012

While comparatively small water users compared to other industries and households, the mining and power industries generate large amounts of saline water through water-intensive activities like washing coal and dust suppression. Much of the water used on site is captured in off- river storage dams, however some excess water still needs to be discharged to the river system.  

To minimise the cumulative impacts of water discharges into the Hunter River, these industries have developed the Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme. It’s an innovative, market-based program with specific measures designed to manage the water discharges in a way that minimises any impacts on the environment.

Discharges can only happen under strictly controlled licence conditions and by holders of salinity credits that are tradeable among companies. Further, mines and power stations can only discharge surplus saline water when river flows are high or in flood.


Dartbrook log jam 648 x 270

The credit system means that the amount of salt discharged stays the same, regardless of who holds the credits. In some instances, rather than buying more credits, it may be more cost-effective for a discharger to implement alternative practices, like re-using saline water or lowering the amount generated.  

The Scheme has been in place for over 10 years and has been successful in keeping salinity levels within water quality guidelines set by the NSW Government. As a result of the program, water salinity is lower and more stable, having been restored to an unprecedented level of freshness.

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