How Adelaide’s beaches stay in shape

Just like your beach body, it’s hard work keeping Adelaide beaches looking good. Here’s why it’s worth the effort.

Did you know that Adelaide’s beaches aren’t naturally all sandy? It takes work to keep our beaches looking great.

Adelaide’s coastline was originally a natural sand dune system. But from the early 1900s, most of the land behind Adelaide’s foreshore was developed with roads, buildings, houses, recreational areas, and sewerage and stormwater infrastructure.

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Seacliff dune system in 1900

The sand along Adelaide’s coast naturally moves northward, by the wind and waves. This causes sand to build on our northern beaches such as Semaphore, but causes erosion along our southern and central coast such as Seacliff, Brighton and Henley Beach. 

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Torrens Outlet at West Beach in 2009

The effects of Adelaide’s natural northward drift, together with earlier foreshore development, means that our coasts need to be looked after. If not, our favourite beaches would quickly erode to rock and clay, plus our houses and roads along the foreshore could be badly damaged by storms.

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Storm damage at Glenelg in 1960

Since the 1970s, Adelaide has adopted a beach replenishment program to actively manage our metropolitan beaches. Every year during the cooler months, sand is pumped or trucked from our northern beaches to our southern beaches.

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Henley Beach south in 1981 versus 2015. The sloping seawall is now covered by sand.

Sand pumping uses pumping stations and underground pipelines to transfer a slurry of sand and seawater from beaches where sand is building up to the eroding beaches further south.

Two sections of Adelaide’s coasts have sand pumping infrastructure – Glenelg to Kingston Park and the Torrens Outlet to the West Beach dunes.

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Sand pumping discharge outflow pipe at the base of a rock seawall 

Trucks are used to transfer sand along some sections of the coast, such as from West Beach Harbour to Glenelg North and between Semaphore South and Henley South.

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Sand trucking

As Adelaide’s climate changes and sea levels continue to rise, it will take extra work to keep our beaches looking beautiful.

Learn more about how Adelaide’s beaches are being managed by reading about Adelaide’s Living Beaches Strategy.

Main image: Henley Beach

This story was originally posted in October 2015.

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