Water quality improvement projects

There are a range of projects designed to provide scientific underpinning to a water quality improvement plan aimed at improving catchment water quality in the various water quality hotspots. These projects allow the compilation of information and data to enhance the knowledge and tools for science-based planning. They are varied in their nature reflecting the broad nature of factors impacting on water quality.

Water sensitive urban design

Water sensitive urban design (WSUD) is a philosophy that aims to mitigate environmental impacts particularly on water quantity, water quality and receiving waterways, conventionally associated with urbanisation. WSUD incorporates holistic management measures that take into account urban planning and design, social and environmental amenity of the urban landscape and stormwater management which are integrated with stormwater conveyance by reducing peak flows, protection of natural systems and water quality, stormwater reuse and water conserving landscaping.

Environmental values and water quality objectives

Environmental values (EVs) are the qualities of waterways that need to be protected to ensure healthy aquatic ecosystems and waterways that are safe and suitable for community use. An EV is a quality, characteristic or attribute that is conducive to ecological health or any benefit to the community which requires protection from the effects of pollution, waste discharges and deposits. EVs are used to assist in the assessment of the current condition of catchments, identified risks and threats.

Water quality objectives (WQOs) are the levels of measurable outcomes that should ensure protection/maintenance of the EVs. WQOs may be defined for a range of:

  • physical parameters (e.g. turbidity, suspended solids and temperature)
  • chemical parameters (e.g. phosphorus, nitrogen, biochemical oxygen demand and toxicants)
  • biological parameters (e.g. algae, diatoms, macro-invertebrates and fish)
  • measures of catchment condition (e.g. erosion levels, riparian vegetation and channel morphology).

Water quality monitoring

These projects determine baseline conditions and track effectiveness of WQIP management measures to improve the capacity of the jurisdiction to monitor pollutant loads. This includes the identification of point and non-point source pollution; the repeated measurement of chosen parameters to assess the current status and changes over time.

Point source pollution is pollution that can be traced to a specific discharge source, including effluents and waste discharged from industrial operations, aquaculture activities, irrigation return flows, wastewater treatment plants, intensive animal industries and mine sites.

Non-point source or diffuse pollution refers to those inputs which occur over a wide area and are associated with particular land uses, as opposed to individual point source discharges. These can include urban, agriculture and forestry land use.

Predictive modelling

Land use and water quality modeling provide estimates of the relative contributions of various pollutants from different sources, as well as indicating the reductions necessary to achieve sustainable loads.

Decision support systems or tools

Decision support systems (DSS) or tools are computerised information systems that presents the results of analyses of the developed models and scenarios to provide a prediction of ecological and WQ outcomes.

Agricultural best management practice

Best management practice is finding the best methods for reducing rural and agricultural diffuse sources of pollution by seeking to characterise, prioritise and implement best practice methods to achieve receiving water quality objectives.

Ramsar wetland ecological character description

The ecological character description (ECD) of a wetland provides the baseline description of a wetland at a given point in time, which can then be used to assess change in the ecological character of the site.
See National Framework and Guidance for Describing the Ecological Character of Australian Ramsar Wetlands

Acid sulfate soil mapping

Acid sulfate soil (ASS) is the common name given to soils and sediments containing iron sulfides, the most common being pyrite. When exposed to air due to drainage or disturbance, these soils produce sulfuric acid, often releasing toxic quantities of iron, aluminium and heavy metals. Acidic water impacts upon downstream receiving waterways and their associated aquatic-dependent ecosystems, including migratory birds. The mapping of acid sulfate soils enables the identification of differences in the degree of oxidation and consequently the risk of acid discharge and assists in the provision of a prioritised national action list to increase our understanding of acid sulfate soils.

Market-based instruments

Market based instruments (MBIs) are tools that use market-like approaches to positively influence the behaviour of people. MBIs can be used to alter market prices, set caps on resources, improve the way a market works or create a market where one doesn't exist. MBIs for water quality can be used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of expenditure by government, industries, landholders and the wider community on natural resource management.