Monitoring, evaluation and reporting
The NSW Office of Water is responsible for measuring and reporting on the progress towards statewide targets for rivers and groundwater as set out in the State Plan. Progress towards statewide targets was reported in the 2009 NSW State of the Environment Report.
Statewide targets are to:
- improve the condition of riverine ecosystems
- improve the ability of groundwater systems to support groundwater dependent ecosystems and designated beneficial uses.
State of the Catchment reports give us information on the condition of rivers and groundwater for the 13 Catchment Management Areas across the state. Companion technical reports for specific statewide targets provide additional details.
Three of the technical reports on groundwater and riverine ecosystems have been produced by the NSW Office of Water:
- NSW Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Program – Technical report series on groundwater (PDF 1 MB)
- NSW Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Program – Technical report series on riverine ecosystems (PDF 1.8 MB)
- NSW Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Program – Technical report series on riverine ecosystems: regional water quality guidelines development – preliminary statistical research (PDF 6 MB)
Please note this will take approximately 14 minutes to download on a 56 Kbps connection. For slower connections, the file has been split into two parts:
- NSW Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Program – Technical report series on riverine ecosystems: regional water quality guidelines development – preliminary statistical research - part one (PDF 3 MB)
- NSW Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Program – Technical report series on riverine ecosystems: regional water quality guidelines development – preliminary statistical research - part two (PDF 3 MB)
The NSW River Condition Index allows the spatial reporting of long-term river health and helps integrate water allocation and catchment planning. This has been a key issue for implementation under National Water Commission's National Water Initiative. With funding from the National Water Commission, the NSW Office of Water led a multi-agency project to develop the spatially expressed river condition index which is being used as the basis for aligning water sharing and catchment action plans. The index also assists with water sharing plan development, identifying similar riverine system characteristics to stratify performance monitoring and evaluation. Additionally, it also assists in reporting on statewide targets for rivers, and the former Catchment Management Authority's Catchment Action Plan (now Local Land Services) evaluation and development.
The NSW River Condition Index allows the spatial reporting of long-term river health. Other spatial products developed as part of the project will enable the spatial representation of instream value, as well as the risk to instream value (resilience) from both physical disturbance and water extraction. A detailed technical manual explains the methods used to develop the River Condition Index and other spatial products. For more information, read River Condition Index in New South Wales: method development and application (PDF 2 MB).
This innovative approach will provide a consistent riverine condition assessment method incorporating fish, macroinvertebrates, physical form, riparian vegetation, catchment disturbance and hydrological disturbance into a single measure based on the National Framework for Assessing River and Wetland Health.
The map below shows the River Condition Index results for NSW as at 2012.
Water sharing plan and catchment action plan alignment is achieved by using the spatial products to guide investment and decision-making in both types of plans. For example, an area identified as having very high instream value may be subject to water trading rules within a water sharing plan that allow transfer of entitlement out of the section, and also be an area where Local Land Services invests in aquatic conservation.
More information the NSW River Condition Index
The National Water Commission has published the results of the Hunter pilot in the Waterlines report on its website at Alignment of water planning and catchment planning.
This work has also been published in the Journal of Applied Geography:
Brierley, G., Fryirs, G., Cook, N., Outhet, D., Raine, A., Parson, l., & Healey, M., (2011) Geomorphology in action: Linking policy with on-the-ground actions through applications of the River Style Framework. Journal of Applied Geography 31 (2011) pp 1132 -1143.
Instream ecological value is assessed using a geospatial tool to identify high ecological value aquatic ecosystems (HEVAE). HEVAE has been developed under a nationally agreed framework outlined in the Aquatic Ecosystems Toolkit in response to the National Water Initiative (NWI). HEVAE allows for mapping, classifying and assessing the condition of aquatic ecosystems across NSW to identify the overall instream value of river reaches.
Instream value is calculated using four key criteria; Distinctiveness, Diversity, Naturalness and Vital Habitat. Each of these criteria are important components of ecosystem health and function where instream value is the overall classification of river reaches by combining all four criteria.
HEVAE provides the most current, in-depth level of detail for identifying ecological values in NSW river reaches and is currently used to inform Ecological Risk Assessments across the Murray-Darling Basin and trade rules in Water Sharing Plans. The application of HEVAE assists in identifying Water Sources and river reaches where there may be a risk to instream values based on the extraction demand. It also allows for the protection of ecological values, such as threatened species, by applying trade rules to encourage the reduction of entitlement in high instream value river reaches.
Risk assessment, in an environmental management context, is a process that can express the probability that a hazard will occur and the magnitude of the environmental outcome. Risk is usually expressed using the equation below.
Risk = Likelihood x Consequence
Risk assessment is a useful tool for prioritisation of both management action and for the stratification of monitoring effort.
Using the macro water sharing plan approach to the management of unregulated rivers in NSW, the Office of Water has also implemented a risk assessment approach to manage the level of extraction demand against the risk to instream ecological values to assist in developing rules that manage water extraction at low flows. Additionally, using information from the Riverstyles® approach, risk to instream values from physical disturbance can also be determined.
For more information on macro water sharing plans, refer to Macro water sharing plans – the approach for unregulated rivers. A report to assist community consultation. (PDF 796 KB).
River risk assessment has developed into a three stage process that enables a final risk assessment to key instream values from both water extraction and physical disturbance.
Diagram: The three stage process to determine the risk from key riverine activities and overall risk to river instream values.
The approach developed for risk allows for within region prioritisation, but does not allow for absolute comparisons between different regions. This approach was taken because investment, evaluation and reporting decisions are usually made at the catchment or valley scale, and it also allows a flexible approach, whereby catchment-specific data can also be incorporated. It is also important that values within a given valley are relative to each other, so that natural resource management agencies operating at a regional level can assess the relative trade-offs in investment within their area of management. If a statewide approach was adopted, it is likely that the result would be a clustering of high value areas on the NSW coast, and fewer high value areas inland.
The River Styles framework is integral to the River Condition Index as it forms the physical form component of the index and is extensively used to identify, interpret and map river types throughout the state.
River Styles forms the main layer with which stream segments are stratified in the Instream Ecological Values and Risk to Instream Values layers of the River Condition Index. River Styles spatial layers include:
- River styles – detail the physical setting in which the stream occurs. It includes four main groups comprising the swampy meadow group, confined valley setting, partially confined valley setting, and unconfined valley setting.
- Geomorphic condition – a measure of departure from a natural or expected state and can be defined as the ability of a river or reach to perform functions expected for a specific river type.
- Recovery potential – provides the potential of the river reach to return to good condition, through the consideration of existing physical disturbance threats.
- Fragility – refers to the susceptibility or sensitivity of certain geomorphic categories to physical adjustments and changes when subjected to degradation or certain threatening activities.
The Office of Water continues to monitor and expand its groundwater level monitoring network in priority areas where there is active groundwater use. This enables the office to effectively monitor the influence of groundwater use and ensure that appropriate management actions are implemented when required in order to mitigate an adverse impact. These activities are improving the current knowledge on groundwater dependent ecosystems, as well as the relationship between surface and groundwater resources.
The Office is currently conducting analysis of remote sensing and complementary data sets to develop a state map of groundwater dependent terrestrial vegetation. This will identify the location of groundwater dependent terrestrial vegetation, guide future investigations, and ensure these areas are protected through water sharing plans.
The Office is currently completing various National Water Commission funded projects that are improving the level of knowledge on the influence of groundwater extraction on groundwater quality, the interaction between gaining and losing streams and the identification of groundwater dependent ecosystems in coastal sands aquifers adn the impact risk assessment of groundwater extraction in these systems.
In 2008 the former Department of Water and Energy (now the NSW Office of Water) developed and published catchment health indicators for the Sydney drinking water catchment area.
The Sydney Catchment Authority, in consultation with other stakeholders, produced the report, Development of Catchment Health - indicators for the drinking water catchments - Sydney, the Illawarra, Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven (December 2009). The report lists catchment health indicators, outlines the process for indicator selection, summarises the recommended methodology for data collection and identifies the agencies responsible for collecting indicator data.
The Office of Water has developed a standardised riparian vegetation extent layer for NSW rivers and streams with funding provided by Catchment Action NSW. This layer has been derived from existing NSW statewide woody vegetation layer and a newly developed stream order layer.
The spatial layer will be useful for all Local Land Services (formerly Catchment Management Authorities) who have a riparian vegetation target in their Catchment Action Plans. It provides for the first time a consistent measure of riparian vegetation across all the following catchment management areas of NSW.
- Riparian Vegetation Extent for Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting: Project report (PDF 2 MB)
- Riparian vegetation extent – Border Rivers – Gwyder Catchment Management Authority (PDF 814 KB)
- Riparian vegetation extent – Central West Catchment Management Authority (PDF 656 KB)
- Riparian vegetation extent – Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Authority (PDF 177 KB)
- Riparian vegetation extent – Hunter – Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority (PDF 993 KB)
- Riparian vegetation extent – Lachlan Catchment Management Authority (PDF 519 KB)
- Riparian vegetation extent – Murray Catchment Management Authority (PDF 458 KB)
- Riparian vegetation extent – Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority (PDF 653 KB)
- Riparian vegetation extent – Namoi Catchment Management Authority (PDF 625 KB)
- Riparian vegetation extent – Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority (PDF 230 KB)
- Riparian vegetation extent – Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority (PDF 162 KB)
- Riparian vegetation extent – Sydney Metro Catchment Management Authority (PDF 109 KB)
Farm dams are the lifeline of most farming businesses as they provide a supply of water essential for irrigation and other farming activities. They can be used to capture surface runoff, intercept watercourses, or hold surface water or groundwater that is pumped into them. In NSW, farm dams can be constructed legally if the relevant statutory requirements are complied with. However, farm dams can reduce the availability of water for other users in the catchment and for the environment.
Mapping of farm dams can provide data valuable for checking compliance with statutory requirements and for environmental assessment purposes.
The Office of Water has been trialling different remote sensing techniques to determine their suitability for mapping farm dams. The results of a trial in the Parkes and Braidwood areas can be downloaded from the link below:
- Desktop surveillance of farm dams (PDF 1 MB)
An increased use of remote sensing techniques and GIS analysis will enable the Office of Water to more accurately assess illegal capture of water, have a better understanding of the level of compliance of farm dams, and effectively target areas where illegal activities are having the greatest impact on the availability of water.
The results of the trial can also be applied to assessment of availability of water in catchments, and for other environmental purposes.
For more information about farm dams go to the Department of Primary Industries website
More information on the use of dams for harvesting runoff can be found under Water licensing > Basic water rights > Harvesting runoff