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Topics > Coasts > Managing Adelaide's Beaches

Adelaide beach works

The Adelaide coastline is a highly modified environment as a result of urban development covering much of the original coastal dune system, impacting the natural coastal ecosystem. The state government has been actively managing Adelaide’s coastline for the last 50 years to protect property, the foreshore and infrastructure from storms while also providing sandy beaches for community enjoyment. Active management results in a beach system that is more resilient to storm damage.

The sand on Adelaide’s beaches naturally moves from south to north, driven by wind and waves. This causes erosion at the southern and central sections of the coastline, such as at Seacliff, West Beach and Henley Beach South, and a build-up of sand on other parts of the coastline, such as Glenelg, Semaphore and Largs Bay.

For half a century sand along the coastline has been moved from where it builds up to where it is needed. As necessary additional sand has also been brought into the system from external sources such as quarries and off-shore deposits.

In the southern section of the coastline sand is moved using an underground sand recycling pipeline from Glenelg to southern beaches to maintain dunes and keep those beaches sandy. Trucks are used elsewhere to replenish beaches.

Strong winds, large waves and storm surges, especially in the winter months, causes erosion of Adelaide’s beaches. The Department for Environment and Water monitors closely the entire coastline to determine where sand is needed. Sand movement works are generally undertaken during cooler months when there are fewer people on the beaches.

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Find out about works underway to manage Adelaide's beaches.

Sand pumping from Glenelg to Kingston Park (annual)

Works: Annual sand recycling with sand being pumped to replenish beaches from Glenelg to Kingston Park.
Duration: Annually every June to November
Contact: or phone 8124 4928

Sand recycling to replenish beaches from Glenelg to Kingston Park through the underground pipeline system is undertaken annually. Works normally commence in June and run through to November. McConnell Dowell undertakes this work on behalf of the department.

Sand collection and pumping can take place between 7.00am and 7.00pm Monday to Friday. During this time, residents and beachgoers are requested to take care during works and adhere to safety signage and flagging in place during operations.

This year the sand pumping operations were delayed due to a number of factors outside of DEW's control. The delays were unavoidable and subsequently resulted in a reduction of the volume of sand moved to replenish the southern beaches.

Long term annual survey data shows that the annual sand movement by pumping, from north to south, is greater than the natural littoral drift that moves sand northwards. This means more sand has been recycled back to the southern beaches than has moved northwards to Glenelg over the last ten years. As a result, the department does not foresee any detrimental impacts to the City of Holdfast Bay coastline resulting from this year's smaller volume.

Key areas that experience the effects of the northerly littoral drift more keenly, such as Kingston Park and the Brighton to Somerton Park stretch, are being targeted for replenishment in this year's program and will continue to be monitored closely.

Sand pumping from Glenelg to Kingston Park is now completed for 2023.

West Beach Replenishment

Works: Delivery of sand from land-based quarries to West Beach.
Duration: Recommencing Autumn 2024.
Contact: or phone 8124 4928

Glenelg North beach replenishment

Works: Delivery of sand from West Beach Harbour to Glenelg North.
Duration: Commencing 14 August 2023.
Contact: or phone 8124 4928

Commencing Monday 14 August 2023, accumulated sand in and adjacent to West Beach harbour will be moved by truck to replenish Glenelg North beach and raise the beach level in preparation for larger scale replenishment commencing in November 2023.

These initial works are expected to take 2-3 weeks

Replenishment will continue in early November with sand sourced from the accumulation on the south side of the harbour. The sand will be moved by truck, along the beach, to Glenelg North. Works will be completed before school holidays in December. This work will complete the annual Glenelg North beach replenishment operations for 2023.

The sand will help to raise the beach level along the narrower stretch of Glenelg North beach. The removal of sand south of the harbour bridge will help prevent excess sand moving around the harbour breakwater and into the harbour where it would otherwise need to be removed with a dredge.

Glenelg North beach replenishment works are now completed for 2023.

Read the news story

Community safety

Truck speed limits on beach

Working hours

  • The contractor needs flexibility to work around the weather and tides. Operating hours for beach works are at the discretion of the site supervisor, and can be undertaken between the hours of 7:00am and 7:00pm, Monday to Friday.
  • Works are not undertaken on weekends.

Works are subject to change.

Adelaide beach works

West Beach dune restoration and stabilisation

Works: Dune restoration and stabilisation works at West Beach
Timeframe: Commenced February 2022

  • Stabilisation and restoration works commenced at West Beach in early 2022.
  • Works are being undertaken on the dunes at Seaview Road north of the West Beach Surf Life Saving and at the West Beach Parks dunes situated adjacent to the BIG4 holiday park, West Beach.

Find out more

Community safety

Community safety is a priority. Safety signage is in place on the beaches during works.

The community and beach users are asked to please take extra care on the beaches while the works are underway and adhere to all safety signage and flagging in place during operations.

  • Qualified contractors are employed for the works. The successful contractor is required to develop a job safety plan and a thorough risk management plan. This includes safe management between the work and members of the public.
  • Traffic control complies with relevant Australian Standards and Code of Practice. Traffic controllers and/or signage is provided where necessary.
  • We liaise with Surf Life Saving SA and local surf clubs regarding beach safety.
Adelaide beach works

Truck speed limits on beaches

Sand movement works on Adelaide’s beaches are undertaken by a contractor on behalf of the department.

Safety is of paramount importance when undertaking works along our beaches. As such, the contract includes stringent conditions regarding the speeds that the equipment (trucks and other machinery) can operate at when moving along the beach.

Speed of vehicles on the beach shall not be greater than:

  • 40 km/h unless within 50 metres of any person or animals
  • 25 km/h between 10 metres and 50 metres of any person or animals
  • Must stop within 10 metres of any person or animal.

In addition, all vehicles must give way to all other traffic on the beach including pedestrians and animals. They must stop when pedestrians or animals wish to cross the line of movement of the trucks along the beach.

GPS monitoring is used to make sure the contractor’s trucks are not speeding. The department also has a full time supervisor on site at the beach monitoring compliance with these conditions.

Doesn’t sand just wash away when beaches are replenished?

When beaches are replenished with sand it is normal for some of it to be washed away during the next storm. If the replenishment sand wasn’t there, then the beach would be even more eroded and exposed.

Much of the sand that is washed offshore during storms is moved back onshore during calmer periods, so it is not wasted. This sand will also help maintain beaches as it drifts naturally to the north.

Why is sand under the surface of the beach grey or black in colour?

The sand collected from Adelaide’s beaches is sometimes coloured grey to black because of the naturally decomposing seagrass content. This is particularly noticeable if you dig below the surface of the beach in areas where seagrass wrack accumulates. This quickly turns white/yellow after being exposed to the sun, wind and rain.

Adelaide beach works
Seagrass wrack on Glenelg beach

Is seagrass wrack sometimes moved on beaches?

It is preferable to leave beach-cast wrack on the beach unless it becomes a problem from an amenity or management perspective, as seagrass wrack plays an important role in sustaining the beach and marine environment. This includes nutrient recycling, providing food and habitat for marine life and protecting the coast from storms.

Where wrack is impeding sand collection, it can be moved within the beach system, or it may be incorporated into the replenishment of nearby eroded dunes (such as near harbours where wrack regularly accumulates and is required to be moved or dredged).

If wrack is intended to be moved for amenity or other purposes, then responsibility is with the local council as part of its care and control of the foreshore.

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