In Environment

Western Australia Minister for Environment Donna Faragher

New Fertiliser Regulations To Protect Waterways

Victor P Taffa

The Western Australia State Government is to introduce new limits on the amount of phosphorus contained in ‘home garden’ fertiliser.

Environment Minister Donna Faragher said the new regulations were part of the Liberal-National Government’s ongoing determination to the protection and preservation of the Swan River system and other waterways.

Mrs. Faragher said the new regulations would effectively halve the concentration of phosphorus in domestic-use fertilisers (typically under 50 kg).

From January 1, 2011, phosphorus in lawn fertilisers would be limited to a maximum of 1% (currently up to 3.5 %).

Garden fertilisers would be limited to a maximum of 2.5 % Phosphorus from January 1, 2011 and 2% from January 1, 2013 (currently between 3.5 and 4%).

 

“Phosphorus from residential properties contributes about 5.59 tonnes of phosphorus each year to the Swan-Canning river system.” the Minister said.

“Excess phosphorus feeds algae, causing algal blooms. When algal blooms die, the decomposition process reduces oxygen levels in the water and can lead to the death of fish and other marine life.”

“We believe these river-friendlier fertilisers will have a significant impact on the amount of phosphorus that finds its way into our river system and waterways.”

Mrs. Faragher said industry bodies and government agencies had been working on new limits for some time.

The Minister said some of the specific details of the new regulations would be finalised during the next month, in consultation with stakeholders.

The new regulations would also address the labelling of fertilisers to ensure residential users were aware of best-practice fertiliser applications.

Mrs. Faragher said the regulations would not apply to agricultural or horticultural use.

The Minister said low water soluble fertilisers were currently not commercially available for agricultural or horticulture use, but trials were under way to assess the efficacy of low water soluble phosphorus fertilisers.

The trials, where the performance of high water soluble products was being compared to low water soluble fertilisers, were taking place at Scott River (two), Busselton, West Coolup, Keysbrook (two), Muchea and North Dandalup.

Mrs. Faragher said Government funding for the Swan and Canning rivers was making a significant difference to improving the health of the waterways.

Recently announced initiatives included:

  • $3 Million to install an underground barrier to stop contaminated groundwater entering the Helena River at Bellevue;
  • $3.19 Million for the Swan Canning Water Quality Improvement Plan, which aimed to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus input from catchments into the Swan and Canning rivers.

This included:

  • $1.15 Million to rehabilitate the degraded Anvil Way drainage basin in Welshpool and create a new wetland;
  • $180,000 to apply a Western Australian-developed nutrient magnet to parts of the Canning River to block damaging algal blooms;
  • $600,000 for more than 35 on-the-ground projects to improve the quality of water entering the Swan and Canning rivers.
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