Assessing the Need to Revise the National Water Quality Management Strategy Guidelines for Groundwater Protection in Australia

This project concluded 30 June 2010.

Overview

From 2009-10 Geoscience Australia was contracted to evaluate whether a revision of the National Water Quality Management Strategy (NWQMS) Groundwater Protection in Australia Guidelines was required, and if so, to advise on the scope of review requirements. The results of this evaluation were provided to the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC) External site link and are available below under project outputs.

Background

The National Water Quality Management Strategy (NWQMS) External site link provides national policies, guidelines, information and tools to help government and communities manage water resources to meet current and future needs. The Guidelines for Groundwater Protection in Australia (NWQMS Guidelines #8) External site link were published in 1995 by the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ) and Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC). The primary purpose of the Groundwater Guidelines was to provide a national framework for protecting groundwater from contamination in Australia. Many jurisdictions have used the Groundwater Guidelines to develop groundwater policy and regulations designed to improve the management of groundwater resources.

Scientific knowledge of groundwater systems in Australia has grown significantly since the guidelines were first developed in 1995. Science has provided new insights into connectivity between aquifers and links between groundwater and surface water systems. In addition, recent drought-related reductions in surface water availability have resulted in greater use of groundwater resources. Previously unknown groundwater-dependent fauna and ecosystems have also been described. 

Achievements to date

The project objectives were delivered through the following three phases:

Phase 1: Literature review

A review was conducted of the existing published information relating to management of groundwater quality in Australia. The review considered the range of relevant groundwater quality issues including: contamination by salinity, nutrients, agrochemicals, industrial contaminants and acid sulfate soils; groundwater dependent ecosystems; and groundwater-surface water interactions. It also considered the management implications and the relevance of the existing groundwater quality guidelines to these issues.

Phase 2: Regulatory review

Identification and review of legislation, regulation and policy related to groundwater quality protection in each jurisdiction was undertaken. This included analysis of the extent to which the jurisdictional legislation, regulation and policy reflect the NWQMS Guidelines for Groundwater Protection in Australia.

Phase 3: End user analysis and recommendations

Key stakeholders and end-users of national guidelines on management of groundwater quality were identified to understand the extent to which the guidelines are adequate for supporting end-users' needs.

Recommendations were also provided regarding further work required for revising the guidelines.

Project outputs

The following reports are available:

Topic contact: groundwater@ga.gov.au Last updated: September 3, 2013