An introduction to the Australian and New Zealand guidelines for fresh and marine water quality

​The Australian and New Zealand guidelines for fresh and marine water quality—2000 is currently under review.

Publication details

Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand and the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council, 2000

The Water Quality Guidelines have been prepared as part of our National Water Quality Management Strategy (NWQMS) and relate to New Zealand's National Agenda for Sustainable Water Management. They provide government and the general community (particularly catchment/water managers, regulators, industry, consultants and community groups) with a sound set of tools for assessing and managing ambient water quality in natural and semi-natural water resources. They are not meant to be applied directly to recycled water quality, contaminant levels in discharges from industry, mixing zones, or stormwater quality, unless stormwater systems are regarded as having conservation value.

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National Water Quality Management Strategy: An introduction to the Australian and New Zealand guidelines for fresh and marine water quality

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Background

The main objective of the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality is to provide an authoritative guide for setting water quality objectives required to sustain current, or likely future, environmental values [uses] for natural and semi-natural water resources in Australia and New Zealand.

The NWQMS provides a framework for water quality management that is based on policies and principles that apply nationwide. In particular, the strategy is based on the philosophy of ecologically sustainable development (ESD). This can be defined as '[development] using, conserving and enhancing the community's resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends, are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased'.

The guidelines are not mandatory, nor should they be regarded as such. The vast range of environments, ecosystem types and food production systems in Australia and New Zealand require a critically discerning approach to setting water quality objectives. The NWQMS aims to achieve sustainable use of water resources by protecting and improving their quality while maintaining economic and social development.

A 3-tiered approach—national, state or territory, and regional or catchment—is required.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of local stakeholders and state and territory or regional governments to agree on the level of protection to be applied to water bodies. State or territory and/or local jurisdictions are encouraged to use these national water quality guidelines to formulate their own regional guidelines or specific water quality objectives. Each state or territory uses its own water planning and environmental policy tools to establish a framework that is compatible and consistent with the agreed national guidelines.

The Water Quality Guidelines provide recommendations that water managers can use to guide practice and formulate policy, taking into account local conditions and associated costs and benefits. The result should be more efficient and cost-effective environmental management.

A 'roadmap' on pages 2 to 3 of this Introduction describes the layout of the Water Quality Guidelines and external support documents. It will enable users to identify the chapters or other materials relevant to them. Key tables are listed on page 23 of this Introduction, while a glossary of key terms is contained in Appendix 1, Volume 1 of the Water Quality Guidelines. Volume 1 also contains an index.

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