Catchment condition reporting for water quality

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The development of catchment condition reporting for water authorities assists in meeting reporting requirements of due diligence as set out in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines for risk management. The active management of catchments by water authorities is regarded to be an integral process for risk mitigation and the protection of source water.

Catchment condition reporting is considered to be a viable option for water authorities as it provides them with clear management objectives and detail to assist them with understanding and managing catchments.

Description

A survey of 12 Australian water authorities was undertaken for catchment condition reporting for drinking water quality. In this survey, respondents ranked their priorities for assessing catchment condition, and their preferred reporting frequency. Respondents were also asked to rank parameters that fell under the categories of water quality, water quantity, land, waterway, community and social aspects. These parameters were chosen from a master list that was developed as an outcome from a literature review that was undertaken that focused on catchment condition reports from Australia and around the world.

Outcomes

Of the 12 respondents surveyed, 83% indicated that a catchment condition report specifically targeted to drinking water management would be helpful. All respondents indicated that a catchment condition report could potentially influence catchment management outcomes. The preferred frequency of reporting was equally spread, ranging from every year, up to every 5 years. The report could also be produced after a major event that alters the catchment (e.g. a bushfire) in order to quantify changes and risk to drinking water sources.

The highest priority parameters selected by the survey respondents were bacterial pathogens, cyanobacteria, algae and toxins, pesticides, standard water quality parameters, streamflow, rainfall, evaporation, riparian zone condition, vegetation cover, location and length of fencing for livestock exclusion, stream bank stability, wastewater discharge, urban stormwater pipes, land use, soils and erosion risk, salinity, urban sprawl, development applications, declared source water boundaries, location of contaminated sites, mines, landfills, roads, septic tanks, urban runoff, current and completed catchment projects and other restoration activities.

Benefits

Undertaking catchment condition reporting can help catchment managers and water authorities to:

  • Gain a better understanding of catchments that fall within their jurisdiction
  • Allow for comparisons of catchment health across regions, states and Australia wide
  • Assist with the prioritisation of catchment management and associated funding activities for the improvement of water quality
  • Help managers determine timeframes for reporting frequencies on catchment health
  • Contribute to short and long terms cycles of setting budgeting targets to address water quality risk management

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