Water Quality Management Framework
Water quality managers can only develop sustainable management strategies when they have a good scientific understanding of the impact of human activities on their waterways and their community has a collective vision for its waterways.
To protect the community values of waterways, the Water Quality Management Framework logically encompasses key requirements for long-term management strategies:
- good understanding of links between human activity and water/sediment quality
- clearly defined community values or uses, including the setting of unambiguous management goals
- clearly identified and appropriate water/sediment quality objectives
- adoption of cost-effective strategies to achieve water/sediment quality objectives.
10 steps to implement the Water Quality Management Framework
The framework focuses on activities that relate directly to water/sediment quality decisions and actions, and expands on the approach described in the National Water Quality Management Strategy charter.
You can use the framework across a range of water/sediment quality issues to:
- clearly show how water quality management activities logically fit together
- link water quality science with integrated water planning and management
- provide an opportunity for national consensus on long-term water quality management.
Water quality management in New Zealand
In New Zealand, the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM) provides an approach to establish freshwater objectives for 2 compulsory national values (ecosystem and human health) and any other values. This policy statement ensures a nationally consistent approach, recognises regional and local circumstances, and includes national bottom lines for some measures of ecosystem and human health.
A guide to the NPS-FM provides explanations of the national bottom lines which represent the minimum acceptable standard of water quality for the attributes associated with the two compulsory national values.
New Zealand users of the Water Quality Guidelines should be aware that regional councils and communities in New Zealand use these national bottom lines to set objectives, so regional plans may include specific reference to water quality measures.
Implement the framework in 10 steps
By clearly showing each step and how they fit together, the Water Quality Management Framework provides structured guidance for water quality managers.
You can incorporate all or some the framework’s steps into comprehensive planning practices, such as catchment management plans, and relatively small-scale and focused issues.
Steps in the framework interact with each other and with related activities, such as water quality monitoring.
Step 1 — Examine current understanding
To inform decisions at subsequent steps, develop conceptual models of how the waterway systems work, the issues they face and how to manage them.
Step 2 — Define community values and management goals
Establish or refine community values and more specific management goals (including level of protection) for the relevant waterways at stakeholder involvement workshops.
Step 3 — Define relevant indicators
Select indicators for relevant pressures identified for the system, the associated stressors and the anticipated ecosystem receptors.
Step 4 — Determine water/sediment quality guideline values
Determine the water/sediment quality guideline values for each of the relevant indicators required to provide the desired level of protection (if applicable) for the management goals of relevant waterways.
Step 5 — Define draft water/sediment quality objectives
Use the guideline values or narrative statements chosen for each selected indicator as draft water/sediment quality objectives to ensure the protection of all identified community values and their management goals.
Step 6 — Assess if draft water/sediment quality objectives are met
Use measurements from monitoring of each relevant indicator to assess whether current water/sediment quality meets the draft water/sediment quality objectives.
Step 7 — Consider additional indicators or refine water/sediment quality objectives
Assess the need to revise or add to the lines of evidence or indicators and the water/sediment quality guideline values.
Step 8 — Consider alternative management strategies
Evaluate the effectiveness of current management strategies to address the identified water quality issues and recommend possible improvements. Improved or alternative management strategies are formulated, assessed and prioritised.
Step 9 — Assess if water/sediment quality objectives are achievable
Use information gained from Steps 6 to 8 to assess whether the water/sediment quality objectives are achievable.
Step 10 — Implement agreed management strategy
Document and implement agreed management strategies, including, in some cases, a suitable and agreed adaptive management framework.
How to use the framework
The Water Quality Management Framework provides users with a step-by-step approach to protect the community values of waterways.
We have depicted the framework as a cycle to emphasise that iteration through the steps is generally required for many applications (adaptive management, or ‘learning by doing’).
Sometimes single steps or groups of steps are undertaken as discrete studies, programs or actions. Sometimes an individual involved in water quality management may only have responsibilities and tasks relating to a single step or a few steps. In these cases, the whole framework provides context for the steps used.
Following the steps
Start at Step 1 of the framework and work through to Step 10, or use the steps relevant to your particular application.
The framework is described as a sequential step-wise process. But in practice, many of the steps are interrelated and are best addressed in parallel.
Water quality is only one aspect of maintaining community values for waterways. Other factors (e.g. flow, habitat, soil type) may also be important.
While we treat water quality management as a stand-alone activity, in practice it should be aligned and consistent with other water resource planning and management activities, such as water resource plans and regional natural resource management plans. This provides a more holistic approach to management of waterways.
Understanding key concepts
Each step in the framework links to a number of key concepts that help you to better understand the framework, its applications and more detailed information about topics covered in each step.
Apply the framework to 7 typical uses
To illustrate how the Water Quality Management Framework can be applied in different situations, we show you how to implement each step in common scenarios for water quality planning, approvals, licensing and compliance, monitoring and assessment.
- Developing a water quality management plan
- Applying for a development approval
- Assessing a waste discharge
- Investigating an unexpected event
- Assessing a remediation program
- Conducting a baseline study
- Implementing a broadscale monitoring program.