Project 4.4 'Hazard assessment for water quality threats to Torres Strait marine waters, ecosystems and public health'

Project 4.4 'Hazard assessment for water quality threats to Torres Strait marine waters, ecosystems and public health'

An understanding of the status of water quality in Torres Strait and its influence on marine foods, human health, marine ecosystems and ecological processes in the Strait is important. Potential water quality issues include both regional, such as discharge of metal (and other pollutants in future) pollution from the Fly River associated with mining and future projects involving oil palm plantation development, the port at Daru, other mines in Papua New Guinea or West Papua and other land clearing, and local such as sewage and stormwater discharge and shipping issues (dredging, oil spills, ship groundings, shipyards).

For confident predictions of pollutant transport from source to effect area a model able to be used in the specific Torres Strait physical and ecological environment is essential. Several previous studies have characterised specific aspects of water flow in Torres Strait, but these studies have limitations that compromise their application in the current project.

Overall, due to the numerous islands, their complex shapes, complex bathymetry and strong current regimes, a fine scale two-dimensional model based on an extensive observational network is needed for the Torres Strait so as to confidently assess pollutant transport and dispersion.

SLIM is able to do this due to its variable grid size feature and our ability to draw upon the extensive past data sets gathered by Eric Wolanski and colleagues over the past several decades. Without such a model our ability to predict and explain contaminant transport pathways and thus potential ecological and public health effects would devolve back to, for example, crude visual assessment of river flood plume movement from satellite imagery when available.

Project objectives at a glance

  • Assess and describe all existing and potential sources of pollution, on a scale of regional to local, to the Torres Strait marine environment.
  • Assess the hazard (and to some degree, risk) of these pollutant sources to marine ecosystems and public health, as a basis for management authorities to prioritise investment and political action to minimise pollution and public health/marine ecosystem damage.
  • Facilitate uptake of project outputs and outcomes to key project research users and stakeholders through provision of outcomes in forms that are suitable for upload to the e-Atlas.
  • Design a basic monitoring program which would allow reporting on the status of water quality in Torres Strait and assessments to be made as to the success of pollution management interventions.

This project is intended to support a Phase 2 project after June 2012.

Specific objectives and intended outputs of this Project are detailed in the NERP TE Hub Multi-Year Research Plan.

Project Factsheet     Project Factsheet for the Torres Strait community

Technical Reports

Application of MODIS remote sensing imagery for monitoring turbid river plumes from Papua New Guinea in the Torres Strait Region: a test study

Hazard assessment of water quality threats to Torres Strait marine waters and ecosystems

Project Updates

See February 2012 Project Highlights here.


Link to the Project 4.4 homepage on e-Atlas


Project Duration: 
1 Jul 2011 to 31 Dec 2014


Project People

Project Outputs