Water Quality Sampling Program

Maitland City Council has undertaken sampling of the Maitland waterways since 1995. The river is used by many people for irrigation, stock watering and recreation.

Currently samples are taken on a monthly basis at the following sites:

   - Hunter River: Luskintyre Bridge

                              Melville Ford


    - Lochinvar Creek

    - Fishery Creek

    - Walka Water Works

    - Telarah Lagoon

    - Rathluba Lagoon

The aims of the sampling program are to:

  • establish a water quality database
  • target problem areas
  • raise awareness in the community


What is Monitored in the samples?


Phosphorus occurs naturally in waterways, and results from rock weathering and the decomposition of organic material. Human activities may result in additional levels of phosphorus entering waterways  in the form of detergents, fertilisers and sewerage. High levels of phosphorus may contribute to the rapid growth of aquatic weeds and algae in our water systems, which in turn can lead to taste, odour and toxicity problems, as well as a loss of species diversity.


Ammonia is a nutrient that contains nitrogen and hydrogen. The presence of ammonia in waterways will impact on plant growth and may act as a controlling factor for algae growth when other nutrients such as phosphate are in abundance. High levels of ammonia indicate poor waterway health. Ammonia is found in human and animal waste, nitrogen rich fertilisers and industrial discharge.  

Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen

Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen is the total concentration of nitrogen in a sample present as ammonia or bound in organic compounds.

Nitrates and Nitrites

Nitrates and nitrites are toxic chemicals and are widespread in Australian ground-waters. Elevated nitrate and nitrite levels can occur naturally, or as a result of agricultural practices, and the presence of human and animal wastes. Excessive levels of nitrates and nitrites can create conditions that make it difficult for aquatic insects and fish to survive, and can result in plants and algae growing excessively.

Total Oxidised Nitrogen

Total oxidised nitrogen is the sum of nitrites and nitrates in water. 

Faecal Coliforms

Faecal Coliforms are pathogenic organisms that contribute to the spread of infections and disease epidemics. E.coli is specifically of faecal origin and is therefore the most accurate indicator of faecal pollution. The presence of faecal coliforms in aquatic environments may indicate that the water has been contaminated with faecal materials directly or indirectly by human or other animal source. Contact with water containing high levels of faecal contamination should be avoided.  

Electrical Conductivity (Salinity)

Electrical conductivity is a measure of the salinity of water. An increase in salinity levels above the current acceptable limit has a direct adverse biological effect on river, stream and wetland ecosystems. Water usage for drinking and irrigation purposes may also be adversely affected. Salinity levels can be affected by soil type, rainfall, runoff, groundwater and water temperature.


 pH is a measure of water acidity or alkalinity.  Dramatic changes in water pH will affect the biodiversity living in the waterway, and can affect the ability of the water to be used for agricultural practices. 


Turbidity is a measure of the clarity of a water body.  Some areas are naturally cloudy due to the tannins or soil types around the water way.  Turbidity is frequently used as a measure for the amount of sediment and pollutants entering a waterway.  High turbidity will reduce the ability for light to pass through the water which will inturn impact on biodiversity and plant growth, raise the water temperature, and impact irrigation systems.

Dissolved Oxygen

Dissolved oxygen is a measure of the amount of oxygen found dissolved in water. Without an appropriate level of oxygen in the water fish, invertebrates, plants and aerobic bacteria will not survive.


Chloride occurs naturally in the environment and is commonly found in streams and waterways. Chloride can also enter surface waters from sources such as household and industrial wastewater, and agricultural runoff. Excessive concentrations of chloride can make water unpleasant to drink. 


Chlorophyll is an indicator of phytoplankton abundance and biomass. High levels indicate poor water quality and low levels suggest good water health.

Blue Green Algae Monitoring

Algae are microscopic bacteria that naturally occur in waterways.  When conditions are suitable algae will multiply in number and have the potential to cause scums or blooms on the top of the water due to the large number of cells.  Suitable conditions include increased nutrients, warmer temperatures, appropriate light, low levels of turbidity, and stagnant flows.

Blue Green Algae are the only group of algae that can be toxic in freshwater.  Testing toxicity in algae is a lengthy process and therefore all Blue Green Algae species are treated as toxic.  Blue Green Algae can be harmful to humans, domestic animals and livestock that drink or come in contact with the water.

Blue Green Algae blooms can be recognised as a discolouration of the water, by scum on the water surface or a paint-like slick, or by an earthy or musty odour coming from the water.

Maitland City Council undertakes Blue Green Algae Monitoring during the warmer months when algae is most likely to grow until the identified bloom dissipates.  The sites which Council monitors are Walka Water Works, Telarah Lagoon, and Rathluba Lagoon.

For further information go to www.water.nsw.gov.au/Water-Management/Water-quality/Algal-information/default.aspx or phone NSW algal hotline 1800 999 457.

What can you do to reduce the risk of algal blooms?

  • Ensure that garden and lawn clippings are raked up and won't be washed into stormwater drains after rain.
  • Rather than hosing paths, use a broom.
  • Stop soils and excess fertiliser from your garden and lawn running into the stormwater drain.
  • Wash cars on the lawn to reduce sediments and detergents running into the stormwater drain.
  • Pick up animal faeces.