Why water quality matters
Water quality is a key measure of waterway condition. When thinking about water quality, we might consider:
- Physical attributes: Is the water clear or cloudy? How well does the water hold heat?
- Chemical attributes: How much oxygen is in the water? Is the water salty?
- Biological attributes: Can this water sustain life?
It determines the suitability of water for a particular purpose. Better quality water can support a wider range of uses than poor quality water. Good water quality is vital for supporting many types of plants and animals. For example, some native fish species require specific water temperatures to trigger breeding.
Good water quality supports a range of values: native aquatic species, human consumption, traditional owner cultural use, agricultural, irrigation, industrial and commercial use, water-based recreation and aquaculture.
Some of the things that threaten good water quality are:
Understanding our water quality
Regular monitoring informs a range of Victorian Government programs and initiatives. Keeping an eye on water quality helps to target management strategies to the greatest risks so that our waterways can support native fish and aquatic species. It also means we can enjoy more of our waterways for recreation too.
Find out more about water quality or get involved via Waterwatch Victoria.
Supporting good water quality in our waterways
The Victorian Government invests in regional waterway management activities that improve waterway health, including water quality.
For example, we fund catchment management authorities (CMAs) to implement Regional Waterway Management Strategies. Some activities in these strategies that help improve water quality include riparian fencing, erosion control, revegetation works and delivering water for the environment. Find out more about the Victorian Waterway Management Program.
Water quality in our waterways and bays
In Victoria, water quality in our waterways and bays is managed by:
- catchment management authorities
- the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA)
- Parks Victoria
- water corporations
- Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA)
- the Australian Department of Health.
Many community groups also improve water quality through weed control, fencing, revegetation and litter collection.
Protecting water quality
The Environment Protection Act 2017 came into effect in 2021 and established the new framework for environmental protection, including a general environmental duty and Environment Reference Standard.
We work with the Australian Government and other states and territories to develop water quality and waste management guidelines.
View national guidelines
Managing nutrient and sediment loads in waterways and bays
We manage nutrient loads and sediments into Victoria’s largest marine bays to maintain good environmental and recreational water quality. This supports healthy and diverse ecosystems and the wide variety of human uses. The Environmental Management Plan for Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay (2017-2027) describes the benefits of managing nutrient loads.
The Central and Gippsland Sustainable Water Strategy policies and actions include addressing marine pollution load objective for:
- Port Phillip Bay
- Western Port
- Lake Wellington and Corner Inlet
Central and Gippsland Sustainable Water Strategy
Water quality management framework
A water quality management framework encompasses legislation and action at the Australian Government, Victorian Government, and regional level. These are outlined below.
Water Act 2007
- Murray Darling Basin Agreement
- Basin Plan
- Water trading rules
- National Water Quality Management Strategy
- Murray Darling Basin agreement
- Water quality objectives and targets for water resource plans
- Salinity targets
- Long-term watering plans
Water Act 1989
- Waterway management
- Floodplain and drainage management
- Water use licences
- Water trading regulations
- Sustainable water strategies
Safe Drinking Water Act 2003
- Safe drinking water regulations
Catchment and Land Protection Act
- Integrate management and protection of catchments
- Maintain and enhance the quality of the State’s land and water resources, including associated plant and animal life
- Regional catchment strategy development
Planning and Environment Act 2003
- Victoria’s planning provisions, like land use planning
- Statutory planning controls
Environment Protection Act 2021
- Environment Protection regulations 2021
- Environment Protection Transitional Regulations
- Environment Reference standards 2021 Guidance
- Municipal strategic statements
- Implementation of planning
- Safe drinking water
- Management of licences and licenced discharges
- General environmental duty
- Management of licenced discharged
Roles and responsibilities
The following outlines the roles and responsibilities of key agencies in water quality management and incident response.
- Facilitate sustainable development of primary industries.
- Control agency for water and sewerage disruption, blue green algae and emergency events.
- Develop state legislation and policy for water quality management.
- Ensure a continuous water resources assessment program that provides for the collection, collation, analysis and publication of information about water quality (including salinity).
- Develop Victorian policy on water quality management.
- Provide inter-governmental, statewide and regional liaison for water quality issues.
- Co-ordinate blue-green algae management across Victoria.
- Manage public lands for water quality benefits.
- Provide input to national water quality management policy.
- Invest in regional management activities to improve water quality.
- Work with landholders (dairy, beef, vegetable, horticulture, intensive livestock) to recognise and reduce impacts on water quality.
- Manage parks on behalf of DEECA.
- Manage public lands to reduce risk to waterways from poor water quality.
- Ensure messages are communicated about marine and coastal values protected within parks and reserves (for example, Marine National Parks and Marine Sanctuaries) at risk from poor water quality.
- Manage litter in the Yarra and Maribyrnong rivers.
- Develop waterway managers and regional waterway management.
- Develop and implement programs and activities that protect or improve water quality.
- Support and facilitate the implementation of regional land use planning measures to improve water quality.
- Provide water quality advice for emergency water quality management (for example, blackwater and fish deaths).
- Undertake community stewardship and awareness programs with a focus on protecting water quality through changes in personal behaviours.
- Contribute to water quality monitoring.
Page last updated: 27/09/23