Cleaning up an old port – what does success look like?

Mr Peter Pfennig1

1Environment Protection Authority SA, Adelaide, Australia


After over a century of neglect and uninformed development and management the Port River near South Australia’s capital city Adelaide was looking very much the worst for wear. The river was characterised by an almost constant algal bloom with regular dinoflagellate population explosions causing ‘Red Tides’.  Stable rafts of sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca) were a regular feature of the nearby Barker Inlet and Adelaide’s coastal waters during spring. In the 1990s things began to change with discharges being either severely curtailed or removed and a continuing move to better stormwater management.  A Water Quality Improvement Plan was developed by 2008 with support from the Australian Government to set targets and guide efforts.

A Dolphin Sanctuary was established and more recently there has been a move away from heavy industry in the inner Port to commercial and residential development.

Things have changed in the Port River over the last 20 years, but how is it faring now, and what does the community think about their river?

Information about the current environmental status of the Port River will be presented and questions posed – when have we done enough? What will this look like? how will we use our Port river?


Peter Pfennig is a Principal Environment Protection Officer for the Environment Protection Authority of South Australia. Previous work includes the project management of Stage 2 of the Adelaide Coastal Waters Study and the development of the Port Waterways water quality improvement plan. Peter currently leads a team who develop water quality and other environmental management strategies in South Australia The team has a strong focus on engagement across the community. The team’s recent work includes water quality improvement plans for the Adelaide coast and the Mount Lofty Ranges watershed.