The National Water Quality Management Strategy (NWQMS) forms the framework for water quality management in Australia, which is a diverse and challenging task in terms of stakeholders and end-users involved, chemical constituents, quality end-points, resources available, and cultural requirements.
Water quality is about health — human health, environmental health, economic health, and social health. The NWQMS provides a national approach that transcends geographic boundaries, based on specific objectives, and recognises the benefits and costs of achieving these benefits. A national risk management framework is used by all states and territories. States and territories are responsible for water quality and water supply management in accordance with the national framework.
The NWQMS has three key components: policy, process, and guidelines to assist the states and territories implement the national strategy. The 26 guidelines provide a nationally consistent set of numbers for use by the states and territories as they feel fit. Three key guidelines are available to cover the following areas:
- Fresh and marine water quality;
- Drinking water quality (note that this does not cover bottled water, which fits under the food standard); and
- Water recycling: managing health and environmental risk, augmentation of drinking water supplies, stormwater harvesting, and managed aquifer water recharge.
The NWQMS is under review, and reviewed strategy and guidelines will be published next year on a new, separate website.