Health impacts of water quality
Water is an essential resource for all life. Water pollution from natural, human, or human-caused activity can cause health issues including:
Water pollution can be caused by:
chemical and radioactive waste
extreme weather events
fracking for natural resources
plastics and rubbish
sewage and wastewater.
The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is the main agency responsible for maintaining water quality in our waterways.
Bushfires are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change.
After a bushfire, higher levels of debris, dead animals, fire retardants and ash can reduce water quality.
Fire damage to rainwater tanks can also contaminate rainwater. Read the New South Wales Government's fact sheet about what to do to protect your rainwater supply before and after a bushfire.
Learn more about bushfires and water quality.
After major flooding, toxic waste, oil, plastics, fertilisers, and detergents can contaminate floodwater.
If untreated, they can flow to underground water systems and other water sources.
Learn more about flooding and floodwater.
Pipes, water distribution and plumbing
In Australia, most drinking water pipes are lead free, but many other plumbing products such as brass fittings contain lead.
Ingesting lead through water can cause:
decreased kidney function
Young children, infants, and fetuses are particularly vulnerable.
Learn more about reducing exposure to metals in drinking water from plumbing products and read the enHealth guidelines.
If an air conditioner or warm water system has a Legionella bacteria contamination it can cause legionellosis.
Regular inspections, disinfection and maintenance of cooling towers and plumbing systems limits the growth of the bacteria.
Read the enHealth guidelines for legionellosis control and risk-assessment for health and aged care facilities.
Groundwater is water that collects and flows beneath the earth’s surface.
Communities in dry parts of Australia often use groundwater on crops and as drinking water.
Groundwater contamination lasts for a long time, as groundwater moves much slower than rivers and streams.