A NSW Government website

Water quality guidelines

The Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality provide water managers with tools and guidance on water quality for aquatic systems in Australia and New Zealand. The guidelines help water managers to assess, manage and monitor water quality. This helps to sustain all community values associated with aquatic systems. These values include:

  • the plants and animals that live in water
  • a range of community uses
  • primary industries, and
  • Indigenous cultural and spiritual values.

The guidelines are part of Australia’s National Water Quality Management Strategy. The strategy aims to protect Australia’s water resources by improving water quality. This supports the businesses, industry, environment and communities that depend on water.

The guidelines are jointly managed between the Australian and New Zealand governments and Australian state and territory governments. They provide a best practice platform for consistent and effective water quality management and planning.

The guidelines were updated in 2018 to include new scientific data and techniques for establishing guideline values, and for monitoring and assessment. The revised guidelines are available via the new website www.waterquality.gov.au.

Our fact sheet (PDF, 95.62 KB) and responses to frequently asked questions (PDF, 94.9 KB) support the revised guidelines.

Water quality management plans

The department has developed draft water quality management plans for each water resource plan area in the Murray Darling Basin in NSW.

To find these draft water quality management plans:

  • visit our water resource plan page
  • select the relevant (draft) plan, and
  • view the draft plan, schedules and appendices
  • view the schedule titled ‘water quality management plan’.

These plans provide a framework to protect, enhance or restore water quality that is ‘fit for purpose’ for a range of uses. These plans consider the needs of all water users.

Technical reports for water quality and salinity have been prepared for each plan area.

Annual surface water quality reports

Water quality data is collected on a monthly basis across NSW for the State Water Quality Assessment and Monitoring Program. The program is responsible for collecting, analysing and reporting the ambient water quality condition of rivers in NSW. This information assists in identifying emerging issues and the management of surface water resources.

Surface Water Science provides annual reports for 12 valleys, summarising the water quality conditions. These reports are located in the document library.