Looking After the Health of Our Waterways

​​​​​Freshwater is central to the wellbeing of Tasmanians – it supports the environment, our community, economy and industry.  

A range of activities are being delivered to enhance partnerships and explore new initiatives to better understand, maintain and improve water quality and the health of Tasmania’s waterways:

  • investigating options for improved waterway data coordination and sharing

  • designing and implementing a collaborative statewide water quality monitoring program

  • improving our understanding of drivers of change in waterway health

  • developing a Strategic Directions for Healthy Waterways paper to set out a roadmap of roles and responsibilities, identify knowledge gaps and streamline the management of waterway health. 

What is waterway health?

Waterway health can generally be referred to as the overall condition of freshwater ecosystems such as rivers, lakes, and wetlands. It includes key physical, chemical, and biological components that are often assessed through river health and water quality monitoring.

In the context of better understanding the status of waterways, river health monitoring assesses the ecological condition of rivers by monitoring aquatic life (e.g. waterbugs, algae on riverbed), habitat (sediment on riverbed, riverbank vegetation), ecological processes and streamflow. Water quality monitoring looks at the physical and chemical characteristics of water, including water temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, suspended sediment, nutrients and toxicants.

Waterway data coordination and sharing

Collaborative data management and sharing are important for effective freshwater management in Tasmania. Around the state, there are several large waterway health and water quality monitoring programs that collect a significant amount of useful data and serve a specific management purpose. NRE Tas has established the Water Managers and Data Custodians Working Group​ to help align monitoring programs and develop collaborative partnerships in data collection and sharing.

Understanding drivers of change in waterway health

The health of several of Tasmania's rivers has changed since river health monitoring began in 1994. With demand for freshwater resources increasing, it is important to understand what is contributing to these changes and generate awareness about the activities that may be influencing water health.

Targeted research to enhance our understanding of drivers of change in river health is being undertaken in four case study catchments (Mountain River, Ringarooma River, Pipers River, River Leven). Water quality data will also be collected at 50 sites across the state to support this work. Field sampling in the case study catchment will be undertaken on a seasonal basis between autumn 2023 and autumn 2024, while the water quality monitoring will be conducted monthly from July 2023 to July 2025.

This initiative will help us better understand the factors driving changes in river health across Tasmanian catchments and inform strategies to manage the health of our waterways.

Project timelines

Mid 2022
The Water Managers and Data Custodians Working Group established with members from key water management agencies.​
Early 2023​A study was designed to undertake targeted research in four catchments, with field work commencing in Autumn 2023, to understand what is contributing to recent changes seen in river health.​
Mid 2023
A review of water quality monitoring p​rograms by water management agencies across the state has been conducted identifying gaps and overlaps in monitoring locations and data collected.​
2023 - 2024​Targeted case-study research for understanding the drivers of change in waterway health.​
2025Development of a Strategic Directions for Healthy Waterways Paper.​

​​Healthy Waterways​