River and wetland health
River and wetland health is one of three headline parameters that are reported
by AWR 2005 as follows:
1) What is the current condition of our water resources?
2) What are the key environmental assets for each system?
3) What are the water requirements of our key environmental assets and ecosystems?
Each question is intended to assist with monitoring and reporting on the National
Water Initiative (NWI) objectives that directly relate to river and wetland
- Objective (iii)statutory provision for environmental and
other public benefit outcomes, and improved environmental management objectives
- Objective (iv)complete the return of all currently overallocated
or overused systems to environmentally sustainable levels of extraction
This document represents the first level of the process and
is mainly concerned with the second question.
Australia's rivers and wetlands have important
cultural and environmental values
Image by Colin Chartres
Environmental assets that have legislative
protection based on their naturalness are seen as an important first step in
providing an inventory of the resource base (addressing clause 25 (x) of the
NWI). In addition, the 1994 Council of Australian
Government (CoAG) agreement on water reform outlined that environmental water provision issues
needed to be addressed by the best available scientific methods and information.
Thus, the status of environmental water provisions that have been determined
by each jurisdiction since 1994 have been reported (beginning to address clauses
4145 and 7879 of the NWI).
There are also several national policies related to the questions above, and
the states and territories have signed or endorsed them (see Beavis, S 2005,
Engineers Australia, 29th Hydrology and Water Resources Symposium 21-23 February
pp 18). These include:
AWR 2005 has developed a national framework that can form the basis of
national river and wetland health assessments, and has the capacity to bring
together results of existing broad-scale assessments conducted at state,
territory and basin scale.
River and wetland health is discussed in more detail in the following sections: