National Water Quality Management Strategy:

General principles:

Extract from:

Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council, and Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (1994) National Water Quality Management Strategy; Water Quality Management – An Outline of the Policies. Australian Government Publishing Service; Canberra.

Policy Principles

The concept of sustainable development has been adopted as the base environmental philosophy in the National Conservation Strategy, in Commonwealth working groups and by Ministerial Councils such as ANZECC and ARMCANZ. Ecologically sustainable development provides the basis for water quality management.

The National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development was published in December 1992. The core objectives of the Strategy are:

  • to enhance individual and community well-being and welfare by following a path of economic development that safeguards the welfare of future generations
  • to provide for equity within and between generations
  • to protect biological diversity and maintain essential ecological processes and life-support systems.

The Guiding Principles are:

  • decision making processes should effectively integrate both long and short-term economic, environmental, social and equity considerations
  • where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation
  • the global dimension of environmental impacts of actions and policies should be recognised and considered
  • the need to develop a strong, growing and diversified economy which can enhance the capacity for environmental protection should be recognised
  • the need to enhance and maintain international competitiveness in an environmentally sound manner should be recognised
  • cost effective and flexible policy instruments should be adopted, such as improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms
  • decisions and actions should provide for broad community involvement on issues that affect them.

These guiding principles and core objectives need to be considered as a package. No objective or principle should predominate over the others. A balanced approach is required that takes all of these objectives and principles into account to pursue the goal of ecologically sustainable development.

Policy Objective

There are costs related to both the conservation of and the use of water resources. Whether these costs are acceptable is a judgement to be made by society.

Commitment to ecologically sustainable development implies a clear predisposition to protect and enhance the quality of the nation's water resources. As a policy principle, it gives a fundamental strategic direction to water quality management.

Thus, the policy objective of the National Water Quality Management Strategy is:

The Process

The process for water quality management is based on national guidelines that are implemented at State, regional and local levels. The national water quality guidelines will be the basis for development of State and local plans and objectives.

A water quality management process should incorporate:

  • national consistency in methods for setting goals, objectives and standards
  • clear and explicit administrative processes
  • clear and explicit assignment of responsibilities for the various phases of administration and operation
  • accountability, where progress towards the desired water quality goal is monitored and reported
  • matching of the administrative structures to the physical and social constraints, commonly on a catchment or sub-catchment basis
  • involvement of stakeholders in definitions of goals, development of plans and implementation of strategies
  • administrative mechanisms responsive to change and development, including changing physical conditions over time, changing public preferences for water quality and resource management, and new technical options
  • opportunities for harnessing market forces to the water quality management task.