Water Journal : Current August 2017
www.awa.asn.au 68 Moving towards water quality best practice A PERSPECTIVE ON THE NATIONAL WATER QUALITY MANAGEMENT STRATEGY. B Bycroft executive summary water quality planning D espite the importance and prevalence of catchment-based water quality planning in Australia, many applications lack a consistently logical and systematic approach, and are therefore likely doomed to fail. Based on formal and informal observations over many years, major flaws in current practices and proposed better practice were identified. These better practices are not novel, but are unfortunately rare. Although the discussion is based around water quality, many of the principles are also applicable to related planning endeavours. The approach is based around the water quality management framework described in the National Water Quality Management Strategy (NWQMS). COMMON MISTAKES Common failures fall into three categories: • There is a lack of explicit management goals or outcomes described. Too often, there is reliance on vague and unquantifiable outcomes, and the use of terms such as “minimise” or “provide a balance” means that success can never be verified. Sometimes this has been done deliberately to avoid possible accusations of failure. • There is a failure to develop an effective, efficient and comprehensive suite of management strategies that can meet scientifically derived water quality targets. Although program logic is often lauded, all too often it is absent; that is, even if the management strategies are implemented, then the water quality target might not be achieved. This is compounded by lack of a robust and transparent trade-off process. Costs and benefits of achieving proposed management goals should be clearly identified so the decision for a particular course of action is justified. • Improper consideration is given to uncertainty and how to incorporate it into the decision-making process. In this instance, both scientific and policy considerations are important. For example, the question of water quality value meeting a target needs not only application of the best scientific information, but also a policy decision. The matters in this paper are not to be seen as the last word, but are put forward to encourage debate with the view to improve current water quality planning practices in Australia. Ideally this could lead to the development of nationally applicable guidelines for water quality planning, which could be valuable for all jurisdictions. Brian Bycroft is an independent water quality specialist and an adjunct at the Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University. To read the full article, visit the Water e-Journal at bit.ly/water_ejournal Implement management strategies Evaluate management strategies Current water quality of targets Define water quality targets Set Management Goals Refer to relevant guideline values Current understanding Not Acceptable Simplified NWQMS water quality management framework. Ideally this could lead to the development of nationally applicable guidelines for water quality planning.
Current May 2017