The Tasmanian River Catchment Water Quality Initiative was funded by the Australian and Tasmanian governments, demonstrating both governments’ commitment to maintaining water quality in Tasmanian waterways. The initiative built on existing river catchment auditing and monitoring work to provide information in response to community concerns about pesticide use and the potential impact of pesticide pollution on the environment, human health and industry. The aims of the initiative were to improve understanding of:
- the pesticides used in Tasmania
- the fate of pesticides in the Tasmanian environment
- and the risk of waterway contamination by pesticides.
A major component of the initiative was adapting the Pesticide Impact Rating Index (PIRI) to Tasmanian environmental conditions. PIRI is a risk assessment tool, developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), which helps the user to evaluate the probability that a pesticide will move from the area where it was applied and into surface or groundwater.
PIRI assists with decision making, so that pesticide users can select the most appropriate pesticide or the best time for pesticide application.
The Australian Government commissioned a scientific editor to develop an overarching ‘easy to read’ final report creating a compilation of all reports undertaken in the development of PIRI-TAS.
Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2009
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The initiative’s primary objective was to contribute to the assessment of pesticide use on water quality in Tasmania’s river catchments. In meeting this objective, the initiative was designed around four separate project components, which are all described in separate reports.
Nature and extent of pesticide usage in Tasmanian river catchments
This research project, managed by the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries and Water, determined the nature and extent of agricultural and forestry chemical pesticide usage in Tasmanian river catchments. The results described in the report were used to inform the CSIRO’s Pesticide Impact Rating Index (PIRI) pesticide database, and will assist to enhance pesticide water monitoring programs in Tasmania.
Pesticide Behaviour in Tasmanian Conditions
The Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research (TIAR) studied the half-life (days required for a pesticide to decrease in the soil by half of its initial amount) and sorption (how the pesticide molecules bind to the different soil types) of selected pesticides and soils in Tasmania.
Validation and Development of the PIRI-Tas
Forestry Tasmania analysed historical water quality monitoring data from past pesticide applications and the associated environmental conditions.
Tailoring the CSIRO PIRI to Tasmanian Conditions
CSIRO used the information from the previous three projects to adapt PIRI to Tasmanian conditions and compare the predictions of the new tool, PIRI-Tas, against the historical monitoring data.
To ensure that there was a broad range of community involvement in the development of the initiative, the Australian Government established a Community Consultative Committee, which operated as an adjunct to the Initiative.
The committee was a balance of individuals active within the community on issues relating to the management of chemicals in Tasmania, experts in the field of water quality issues, representatives from industries involved with the use and management of chemicals, individuals familiar with government processes and human health issues, a representative from marine farmers, and natural resource managers represented by members of the Tasmanian regional natural resource management committees.
Three independent audits were undertaken to ensure the integrity of the chemical monitoring data used by CSIRO when validating the PIRI risk assessment tool for Tasmanian conditions.