Innovative Clay Trial Improves Estuary Water Quality

Seagriculture USA 2024
Innovative Clay Trial Improves Estuary Water Quality

Macroalgal mat accumulation on the Coodanup Foreshore, November 2021. ©City of Mandurah

In Western Australia an innovative new trial is helping to improve water quality in the Peel-Harvey estuary catchment by reducing the nutrients that fuel algal growth.

Scientists from Healthy Estuaries WA have applied a specially manufactured clay-based treatment to a drain in the catchment of the Peel-Harvey estuary (Bindjareb Djilba). The clay successfully bound up to 95 per cent of the phosphorus at the treatment site, preventing it from fueling algal growth in the downstream waterways.

Many local waterways like the Serpentine River (Waangaamaap Bilya) can receive excess phosphorus from used fertilizer in their catchment, potentially causing algal growth that can lead to fish kills and adverse human health impacts. 

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation has been working with a novel clay known as Hydrotalcite clay, or HT-clay. It is made from a natural bentonite clay modified with hydrotalcite: a phosphorus binding mineral. The manufacturing process involves mixing several raw ingredients together, causing chemical reactions where the clay becomes coated in the phosphorus binding material. 

Reducing Phosphorus Concentrations

The application of the clay to reduce phosphorus concentrations in the waterways complements ongoing work through Healthy Estuaries WA in the catchment. This work with farmers is reducing the amount of fertilizer applied to farms, preventing loss of further nutrients to the waterways. 

The clay production and distribution have been funded by the State Government’s Bindjareb Djilba Protection Plan and Healthy Estuaries WA program. “The phosphorus binding clay is a Western Australian invention and demonstrates the innovative new approaches our State Government is taking to look after the health of our precious waterways,” said Water Minister Simone McGurk.

Healthy Estuaries WA is a $25 million State Government commitment, which focuses on improving the health of the Peel-Harvey estuary, Leschenault Estuary, Vasse-Geographe waterways, Hardy Inlet, Wilson Inlet, Torbay Inlet and Oyster Harbour.

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Seagriculture USA 2024
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