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Towards a Water Quality Monitoring and Management Framework for the Katherine and Daly River Catchment

Risby, Lyz, Townsend, Simon and Bennett, John (2009). Towards a Water Quality Monitoring and Management Framework for the Katherine and Daly River Catchment<br />. Darwin, NT: Charles Darwin University.

Document type: Research Report
Citation counts: Google Scholar Search Google Scholar

Author Risby, Lyz
Townsend, Simon
Bennett, John
Title of Report Towards a Water Quality Monitoring and Management Framework for the Katherine and Daly River Catchment
Publication Date 2009
ISBN 978-1-921576-11-9   (check CDU catalogue  open catalogue search in new window)
Publisher Charles Darwin University
Place of Publication Darwin, NT
Total Pages 127
Field of Research 300800 Environmental Sciences
Abstract The development of the Katherine and Daly River Water Quality Monitoring and associated management framework was funded by the Northern Territory Natural Resources Management Board and undertaken by Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) in collaboration with Charles Darwin University (CDU) and the Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport (NRETAS).

The project was instigated following community concerns regarding:
• the impact catchment development may be having on water quality, in particular through land clearing and increased water resource use;
• the need for more collaboration between water quality projects; and
• the absence of long-term, systematic water quality monitoring.

Monitoring is essential for management. For example, to inform managers of the state of the resource, to ensure water quality is fit for its intended use, to understand how land activities impact water quality and to test the effectiveness of policies and management actions.

This report is deliberately titled – Towards a Water Quality Monitoring and Management Framework for the Katherine and Daly River Catchment –  to reflect that it is a key initial step in developing the Monitoring framework for the catchment, and equally important is the associated Management framework that monitoring will support.

The report details both the (adaptive) Management framework which monitoring will support and then focuses on the Monitoring framework and its initial details. This will allow key managers to progress high ranking priorities for management, and hence monitoring program objectives. Once they set those priorities, water quality monitoring specialists can design and cost monitoring programs to meet those objectives for managers to consider, prioritise and fund as appropriate.

The purpose of the Monitoring Framework is therefore to guide the planning and implementation of water quality monitoring for the Katherine and Daly River Catchment within the associated Management Framework, and to do this in an integrated and comprehensive manner, taking into consideration stakeholder and community values and concerns. The Framework includes useful references, website links and examples that can assist in the development of water quality monitoring plans, as well as recommendations from the project’s consultation with stakeholders and community.

This report firstly provides an overview of the Water Quality (WQ) Management Framework from the national to the catchment level. It also details the components of that framework, mainly the conceptual modelling and community input into the catchment’s beneficial uses/environmental values.

The report then provides the WQ Monitoring Framework and its detailed steps, as well as reporting on the key components of that Framework that were progressed by this project. These are mainly legislative responsibilities, current and past water quality monitoring, and conceptual models and their associated information on key water quality issues and indicators to be monitored.

Finally, the report provides recommendations on future directions for developing, implementing and utilising water quality monitoring programs in the catchment. These include the next steps as well as the ongoing adaptive management process.

Key considerations and recommendations include:

- The Monitoring Framework addresses water quality monitoring, which is one component of river health monitoring. Nevertheless, the components of this Framework can also be applied to river health monitoring in general and specifically the national Framework for the Assessment of River and Wetland Health, currently being trialled in the Katherine and Daly River catchment.

- The values the community and stakeholders place on water quality in the catchment underpin the Management and Monitoring Frameworks. These are referred to as Beneficial Uses (also known as environmental values) and were identified through consultation with the community and stakeholders. Future water quality monitoring programs should manage both the surface  water and groundwater resources to protect these Beneficial Uses, notably Aquatic Ecosystem  Protection and Raw Drinking Water.

- The Management Framework is an adaptive management cycle which, in its simplest form comprises (1) management actions including monitoring, (2) reporting, (3) decision making based on reporting, and (4) a further management response, followed by continued monitoring.

- Monitoring is based on the “Pressure-Stressor-Impact on Beneficial Use” model for environmental monitoring. The Pressures (or potential threats) are the “causes” of water quality degradation. The Stressors refer to the water quality indicators that are changed by the pressures, for example dissolved oxygen. The water quality change then impacts on the Beneficial Uses.

- Prior to the establishment of a management plan, and associated monitoring program, a conceptual model of how the aquatic environment responds to pressures/threats should be articulated. This will assist in targeting management and monitoring efforts and selecting appropriate indicators. Conceptual models for the main pressures/threats in the catchment are contained within this report. As the understanding of the environment increases, the models should be reviewed and updated. This is a component of the adaptive management cycle.

- There are several pressures/threats that may impact water quality and Beneficial Uses in the Katherine and Daly Catchment. The most significant are large scale land use change (the clearing of native vegetation and its replacement by
agricultural land use), water extraction, mining and fire. Monitoring needs to focus on these as a priority. The water quality indicators that are affected by these pressures/threats are presented in the report.

- Water quality monitoring programs needs to be complemented by monitoring of changes to the pressures/threats to provide interpretative information about the relationship of changes in water quality to management interventions.

- Before long-term monitoring commences, pilot studies may be necessary to provide information for the conceptual model and to assess whether a perceived impact warrants monitoring.

- There are many groups and organisations currently monitoring water quality, and even more undertaking activities that affect water quality or who will be affected by changes in water quality. For this reason, water quality monitoring needs to be collaborative to facilitate monitoring efficiencies, and the collective ownership and management of the resource.

- The requirement and need for water quality and catchment monitoring is based on the intent and  specific sections in Northern Territory legislation. The legal basis for most water quality monitoring lies within the Water Act which is administered through the Minister for Environment by the Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport (NRETAS). For example, monitoring can be required for Water Allocation Plans and as a condition of wastewater discharge licences. NRETAS is best placed to take a leadership role in water quality monitoring and management. Other Acts and departments also have responsibilities for water quality monitoring and management.

- The Daly River Management Advisory Committee (DRMAC) can play a significant role in the management of water quality (and river health) because it is the only established group that brings together key stakeholder representatives from both Government and non-government sectors.

- To facilitate an integrated, comprehensive approach to water quality and catchment monitoring,  coordination of WQ monitoring activities is recommended. The report recommends the establishment of a River Health Scientific Advisory Committee to collaborate monitoring, and report to DRMAC on the water quality and general health of the Katherine and Daly River catchment for management purposes. Such reporting however would not displace Northern Territory Government departmental and other
reporting obligations.

- A central repository for all water quality data is recommended to hold data collected from different sources. To facilitate the dissemination of the data and enhance transparency, the data should ideally be made available from a web- based interface to the water quality database. The NRETAS Maps website linked to the NRETAS HYDSTRA database is suggested.

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Created: Mon, 22 Feb 2016, 14:19:13 CST by Marion Farram