Improvements since 2000

​​​​​​The 2018 revision of the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality is presented as an online platform, to improve usability and facilitate updates as new information becomes available.

Revisions to default guideline values (DGVs) since the ANZECC & ARMCANZ (2000) guidelines have been provided for the ‘aquatic ecosystem’ community value.

DGVs have been revised for physical and chemical (PC) stressors based on increased understanding, broader monitoring data collected since 2000, and adoption of an ecoregionalisation approach. More specific guidance is provided for temporary inland waters.

Additional and revised DGVs for some high priority toxicants are available.

For toxicants, the method for deriving DGVs was revised and subsequently applied to update existing or derive new DGVs for many toxicants, which included the incorporation of more recent toxicity data.

Minor updates to the guidance for the ‘primary industry’ community value were based on a review of knowledge about livestock drinking water.

Sections dealing with recreational water and drinking water have been removed. These topics are adequately dealt with by water quality and health guidelines produced by the Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). In New Zealand, this guidance is provided by the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry of Health.

Here we have outlined additional key changes made in revising the Water Quality Guidelines.

Water Quality Management Framework

The basic Water Quality Management Framework introduced by ANZECC & ARMCANZ (2000) has been expanded and given greater emphasis.

Following the steps in the revised Water Quality Management Framework provides a logical approach to identifying and managing key water quality issues.

Water Quality Guidelines Improvement Program

The Water Quality Guidelines Improvement Program (WQGIP) was established in July 2020 by the National Water Reform Committee (NWRC). The WQGIP aims to maintain the relevance, currency, functionality and scientific rigour of the NWQMS and its guidelines. The WQGIP operates on a rolling two to three-year program of activities, reviewed annually and implemented via a yearly work plan approved by the NWRC and managed by DCCEEW.

A new five-year strategic plan is currently being developed to guide the ongoing implementation of the program.

Key aspects of the strategic plan will address:

  1. Evaluation of the Australian and New Zealand WQGIP (July 2020-June 2023)
  2. Outstanding work under the WQGIP
  3. New work to be incorporated into the WQGIP.

The strategic plan is being developed in a two-stage process:

  • Stage one involves working with stakeholders to identify strengths and weaknesses of the current WQGIP
  • Stage two involves working with stakeholders to draft a five-year strategic plan for the ongoing revision of the WQGIP.

Stage one is now complete, and the program analysis is documented in a status report which captures these discussions and includes recommendations for stage two.

The report was undertaken by an independent reviewer and does not represent Government policy.

Read the report: Analysis of the Australian and New Zealand Water Quality Guidelines Improvement Program

Focus on typical uses

To assist the user, we give step-by-step guidance on how to apply the Water Quality Management Framework in a number of situations or typical uses.

Guidance for each typical use is only provided to illustrate how to use the framework. You should adapt the framework to suit your specific application.

Weight-of-evidence process

Applying the ANZECC & ARMCANZ (2000) guidelines to the range of community values relied largely on a single line of evidence (chemical assessment) to determine whether or not a guideline value was exceeded.

The Water Quality Guidelines improve confidence in our assessments by:

  • introducing a systematic approach to assessing a number of lines of evidence along the pressure–stressor–ecosystem receptors pathway
  • promoting decisions on the basis of the integrated weight of evidence.

Learn more about weight of evidence.

Conceptual models

Natural systems are complex. To understand and manage them well, we can build conceptual models to show the current understanding of how the system works. This is an essential first step in the application of the Water Quality Management Framework.

Conceptual models can also be used when selecting indicators for water/sediment quality, and during system monitoring and assessment.

Develop and use conceptual models.

Your location (ecoregionalisation)

The simple ecoregionalisation in ANZECC & ARMCANZ (2000) has been extensively updated, based on improved ecosystem understanding.

Our ecoregionalisation approach is only used for the ‘aquatic ecosystems’ community value. We provide more relevant DGVs for PC stressors in each region, as well as more targeted and relevant biological assessment.

Australian and New Zealand users follow different approaches.

Refer to Your location.

Cultural and spiritual values

Water resources have important cultural and spiritual values, particularly for the indigenous peoples of Australia and New Zealand.

Incorporate cultural and spiritual values into water quality management.


ANZECC & ARMCANZ 2000, Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality, Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand, Canberra.