Excess salt (hypersalinity)

Large delta in northern Australia The salinity distribution within coastal waterways reflects the relative influx of fresh water supplied by rivers, and marine water supplied by exchange with the ocean. Intrusion of hypersaline groundwater, reduced freshwater input and increased saltwater input can cause an increase in salinity leading to habitat loss, a decrease in biodiversity, fish kills and a change in animal and plant physiology. Residence times/flushing rates/dilution efficiency are natural mediating factors which influence the impact of excess salt on the ecosystem.


Potential indicators

There are a number of causes and symptoms related to this stressor. The following indicators are recommended for the stressor ‘Excess salt’:

Pressure indicators

Indicators of excess salt sources:

  • Number of desalinisation plants per km estuary

Indicators of direct pressure:

  • Total point source salt load entering the estuary.

Vulnerability indicators

Condition indicators

Physical-chemical condition indicators:

Biological condition indicators:

  • None
Possible causes Possible symptoms
The actions/events/situations that might induce this stress: The actions/events/situations that might arise from a change to the stressor:

Fact sheets on background science and economics


Other information on excess salt


Estuary Condition Assessments. Choose your estuary from the list. If available, you can download an estuary condition assessment for the estuary, which provides salinity data where available.


Brisbane River Automated Monitoring. Here you can view the latest water quality for three locations in the Brisbane River. Daily salinity data can be viewed on graphs.

South Australia

Surface Water Data. The Surface Water Archive contains rainfall, water level, streamflow, and salinity data collected from a network of surfacewater monitoring sites located throughout South Australia.




Dynamic Reservoir Simulation Model (DYRESM) is a one-dimensional hydrodynamics model for predicting the vertical distribution of temperature, salinity and density in lakes and reservoirs. Freeware ( University of Western Australia )

Catchment Modelling Toolkit is a repository of software and supporting documentation intended to improve the efficiency and standard of catchment modelling.


USGS Hydrologic and Geochemical Models are widely used to predict responses of hydrologic systems to changing stresses, such as increases in precipitation or ground-water pumping rates, as well as to predict the fate and movement of solutes and contaminants in water.