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Importance of adequate, good quality water

Water is our most valuable resource. It is fundamental to our health, our way of life, our economy and our environment.’ – Water for Good, June 2010

Not only do we need enough water to support economic, social, and environmental processes, but the quality must also be fit for purpose.

The Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy 2015, identifies the following environmental values for water:

  • aquatic ecosystems
  • recreation and aesthetics
  • drinking water for human consumption
  • primary industries for:
    • irrigation and general water uses
    • livestock drinking water
    • aquaculture and human consumption of aquatic foods.

These reflect the difference between the value of water for environmental purposes on the one hand and consumptive use on the other. Approaches used to measure these 2 categories also reflect these differences. Ecological function is measured using aquatic ecosystem condition assessment, while we measure water supply based on sustainable use

The 2 categories are inextricably linked, with the condition of aquatic ecosystems very much reliant on human activities in catchments and water extraction. Water is critical for maintaining the health of wetlands, floodplains, rivers, streams, creeks, lakes and estuaries, and the aquatic life they contain. However, following European settlement and the subsequent phases of agricultural, urban and resource development, land use and water extraction significantly impacted on the health of aquatic ecosystems.

Our economy became dependent on this water and we have found it very difficult to rebalance or repair the damage. Consequently, our water resources are in a highly disturbed condition and, for the last 30 years or so, we have set out to redress the situation. While we have made considerable gains, much is still to be done.