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Water Quality

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Drinking Water

Drinking Water is defined as water intended primarily for human consumption, either directly as delivered, or indirectly in beverages, ice or food prepared with water.

The Department's Environmental Health Branch has a key role in setting goals for drinking water quality and monitoring compliance with those objectives in the interest of public health. The Environmental Health Branch works closely on this issue with the Power and Water Corporation (PWC), which has the primary responsibility for providing suitable drinking water to most Northern Territory Communities.

This collaboration has resulted in the development and implementation of an agreed monitoring program between the Department and PWC for chemical, radiological and microbiological parameters in drinking water supplies. This program is based on recommendations made in the latest edition of the 'Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG)' and also addresses the need for monitoring specific water quality characteristics that are problematic in the Northern Territory and not necessarily described in the ADWG in great detail. All sampling results from this monitoring program are reported to the Environmental Health Branch for consideration and appropriate action.

Under the Water Supply and Sewerage Services Act 2000:

  • the Minister of Health may specify the minimum standards for drinking water quality that a licensee must meet in providing water supply to customers; 
  • a licensee is required to meet minimum standards for drinking water quality; 
  • the Chief Health Officer may in an emergency give directions to a licensee to achieve minimum standards. 
  • the Chief Health Officer may approve the methodology for monitoring compliance with minimum standards.

Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 2011 (ADWG)

The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) have been developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in collaboration with the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council (NRMMC).  The ADWG are subject to a rolling revision process to ensure they represent the latest scientific evidence on good quality drinking water.  The 2011 revision was released on the 28 October 2011.

The ADWG provide a framework for good management of drinking water supplies, and when implemented will assure safety of drinking water. The ADWG are not a mandatory standard, but provide the basis for determining the quality of water to be supplied to consumers in Australia.

The ADWG apply to any water intended for drinking, irrespective of the source or where it is consumed, with the exception of bottled and packaged water as this is covered under the national Food Standards Code.

The ADWG and supporting documents released by the NHMRC such as the consumer information guide 'Water Made Clear' and 'Community Water Planner' can be accessed on their website.

Guidelines for Private Water Supplies

Throughout the Northern Territory there are many facilities that rely on small private water supplies. These supplies can include groundwater, surface water and rainwater.

The Guidelines for Private Water Supplies have been developed by the Department's Environmental Health Branch to assist private water supply operators to comply with the requirements of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines in providing water that is safe to use.

Operators of businesses or facilities that provide drinking water have a responsibility to ensure that the water is safe to use. If the safety of the water cannot be guaranteed then consumers should be alerted. These guidelines provide detail on managing private water supplies using a risk management approach.

Guidelines for Drinking Water Transport in the Northern Territory

The guidelines for drinking water transport in the Northern Territory have been developed to assist carters of drinking water to meet their legal obligations under the Northern Territory Food Act, and their duty of care to their customers to ensure that the water they supply is both safe and suitable for drinking and food preparation. The guidelines provide practical advice on sourcing water, cleaning and sanitising requirements for the tank and fittings, as well as record keeping requirements.

Recreational Water

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is Australia's leading expert body promoting the development and maintenance of public and individual health requirements.

In February 2008, the NHMRC Guidelines for Managing Risks in Recreational Water publication was endorsed by the CEO of the NHMRC on recommendations from Council.

The primary aim of these guidelines is to protect the health of humans from threats posed by the recreational use of coastal, estuarine and fresh waters. Threats may include natural hazards such as surf, rip currents and aquatic organisms, and those with an artificial aspect, such as discharges of wastewater.

These guidelines outline the "minimum" requirements to ensure that recreational water environments are managed as safely as possible so that as many people as possible can benefit from using the water.

The Chief Health Officer of the Northern Territory has adopted these NHMRC Guidelines under the Public and Environmental Health Act.

The Department of Health uses these guidelines to undertake a health risk assessment of results from the beach water monitoring program to ensure the protection of public health.

Aquatic Facilities

 A series of water quality fact sheets have been developed to assist operators of aquatic facilities to ensure their facilities are safe for use by the public by being properly designed, constructed, operated and maintained.  This series of fact sheets deals with maintaining water quality, to minimise the occurrence of disease, injury and other public health risks.

Water Parks (Adobe PDF document - 41KB)Nov 2013470
Faecal Incidents (Adobe PDF document - 45KB)Nov 2013471
Green Pools (Adobe PDF document - 39KB)Nov 2013472
pH and Disinfection (Adobe PDF document - 67KB)Nov 2013473
Recommended Monitoring and Sampling (Adobe PDF document - 67KB)Nov 2013474
Salt Water Chlorination (Adobe PDF document - 44KB)Nov 2013475
Water Balancing (Adobe PDF document - 51KB)Nov 2013476
Cryptosporidium in Pools (Adobe PDF document - 40KB)Apr 2014477

Expected minimum construction standards can be found in the following Australian Standards:

AS/NZS 1926.1Swimming Pool Safety, Part 1: Fencing For Swimming Pools
AS/NZS 1838Swimming Pools - Remoulded Fibre-reinforced Plastics - Design and Fabrication
AS/NZS 1839Swimming Pools - Premoulded Fibre-reinforced Plastics - Installation
AS/NZS 2560.2.5Guide to Sports Lighting - Specific Recommendations - Swimming Pools
AS/NZS 3000Wiring Rules
AS/NZS 2927The Storage and Handling of Liquefied Chlorine Gas
AS/NZS 1768Lightning Protection
AS/NZS 1668.2The Use of Ventilation and Air Conditioning in Buildings-ventilation Design For Indoor Air Contaminant Control
AS/NZS 3780The Storage and Handling of Corrosive Substances
AS/NZS 1926.3Swimming Pool Safety - Water Recirculation and Filtration Systems
AS/NZS 2610Spa Pools - Public Spas
AS/NZS 3739Hydrotherapy Pools

Swimming pool fencing is regulated by the Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment in the Northern Territory. Information on pool fencing can be found at:


Fact Sheets - Water Quality

Disinfection of Water Tanks (Adobe PDF document - 50KB)May 2014400
Interpretation of Results from Microbiological testing (Adobe PDF document - 33KB)May 2014401
Interpretation of Metal Analysis Results in Drinking Water (Adobe PDF document - 44KB)Aug 2012402
Interpretation of Results from Physical and Chemical testing and Analysis of Drinking Water (Adobe PDF document - 49KB)Aug 2012403
Requirements for the Use of Rainwater Tanks (Adobe PDF document - 37KB)May 2014404
Advice for Provision of Water at Mass Gatherings (Adobe PDF document - 40KB)May 2014405
Nuisance Algal Blooms (Adobe PDF document - 108KB)May 2014406
Legionnaires Disease (Adobe PDF document - 38KB)May 2014407
Lead in Drinking Water (Adobe PDF document - 36KB)Aug 2012408
Arsenic in Drinking Water (Adobe PDF document - 41KB)Aug 2012409
Uranium in Drinking Water (Adobe PDF document - 33KB)Aug 2012410
Cadmium in Drinking Water (Adobe PDF document - 36KB)Jan 2013413
Private Water Supplies in Accommodation Businesses (Adobe PDF document - 35KB)Mar 2013414
Food Business Water Samples (Adobe PDF document - 35KB)Mar 2013415
Lead in Drinking Water (48KB)Apr 2015416
Perfluorinated Chemicals in the Darwin Region (Adobe PDF document - 87KB)May 2016-