• EPA Tasmania
  • Assesment
  • Regulation & Assessment
  • Sustainability
  • Policy & Legislation

Water Quality Objectives for Tasmania

  • What are Water Quality Objectives?
  • Who sets Water Quality Objectives?
  • What is the process?
  • Ecosystems for which WQOs are being developed
  • Draft WQOS proposed
  • Further Information and additional guidance documents
  • What are Water Quality Objectives?

    The overarching principles and objectives for water quality management in Tasmania are provided in the State Policy on Water Quality Management 1997.  It provides the management framework for the protection of water quality in Tasmania and the development of Protected Environmental Values, ambient Water Quality Guidelines and Water Quality Objectives. 

    Water Quality Objectives are specific ‘targets’ that protect the agreed Protected Environmental Values and become a metric of environmental management performance for a particular waterbody (inland waters, estuarine, coastal and marine and or groundwater).

    Community expectations or current uses and values may require that improvements in water quality be considered through assessing social, economic and environmental benefits. Public consultation would enable aspirational levels of water quality (targets) being agreed to, intermediate WQOs being set and the implementation of water quality improvement programs to achieve these targets over time.

    Water Quality Objectives will help water users, regulators, environmental managers and polluters understand what the community requires of water quality and this will better equip them to ensure that these expectations are met.  Regulators are required to ensure that those activities which potentially affect water quality are managed to protect the recognised water quality objectives for the receiving waters.  Those with an interest in monitoring water quality will have a benchmark to monitor against.


    Who sets Water Quality Objectives?

    Under the State Policy on Water Quality Management 1997, the EPA Board determines the Water Quality Guidelines for key indicators to achieve the Protected Environmental Values and the Board uses the Water Quality Guideline values to derive Water Quality Objectives.


    What is the process?

    The State Policy on Water Quality Management 1997 (the Policy) sets out how Water Quality Objectives should be set and follows the methodology described under the National Water Quality Management Strategy (1992).

    The process involves establishing Water Quality Guidelines which are numerical values or descriptions of water quality indicators (such as a pollutant concentration) which allow a particular Protected Environmental Value to be maintained and protected. 

    These Water Quality Guidelines can be set using national default value, regional values  or by using site-specific data.

    Having determined the Water Quality Guideline which is appropriate for each Protected Environmental Value set, the Water Quality Objective is then set by adopting the most conservative Water Quality Guideline for all the Protected Environmental Values that have been identified.

    Evaluation of relevant additional information is ongoing and is part of the current review process. Any changes to draft or finalised WQOs will be posted on the EPA website, seeking public comment and key stakeholders would be contacted directly for comment.

    For further information on this process see the explanatory Technical Guidance document and general fact sheet below. 


    Ecosystems for which WQOs are being developed

    Water Quality Guidelines are in the process of being derived for the Protection of Aquatic Ecosystems for four major ecosystem Types, being:

  • Inland surface waters
  • Estuarine waters
  • Coastal and Marine Waters
  • Groundwater


    Draft WQOs proposed

    The Board is now at the point where large amounts of surface water quality data have been gathered, collated and analysed for the purpose of determining the Water Quality Objectives for a number of Inland surface waterways. 

    Before the Board determines those Water Quality Objectives, it is seeking comment from the community and stakeholders about the proposed draft Water Quality Objectives.  While the Board is required to adopt the approach described in the Policy it is also able to consider other issues which may be relevant to its decisions about water quality objectives and this is the opportunity for the community to advise the Board about any such issues.

    The draft WQOs as proposed can be found on the Water Quality Objectives for Tasmanian Surface Waters page. The draft WQOs are provide at the state-wide, regional and catchment levels. For each draft WQO, there is a two or three page fact sheet summarising the WQOs principally derived from the Protection of Aquatic Ecosystems WQGs, and a more detailed fact sheet on the data used and how these WQOs were derived. 

    For full details on the process and derivation of WQOs, refer to the Technical Guidance for the Setting of Water Quality Objectives document 

    The preference is for the derivation of site-specific WQG values and WQOs but when this is not possible, the default is to use (in order of decreasing preference) the catchment, regional, state, or national guideline values.  For toxicants, internationally-derived eco-toxicity assessments and proposed levels would be acceptable but these would be noted as interim WQGs.


    Public and stakeholder consultation on draft WQOs for Inland Waters – Period to be announced

    How to submit your view

    Comments on the proposed approach to setting Water Quality Guidelines and any of the draft Water Quality Objectives proposed can be sent to:

    The Chair
    EPA Board
    PO Box 1751
    Hobart 7001 

    Any electronic submissions can be emailed to waterinfo@environment.tas.gov.au.


    The public consultation period ends on a date to be announced.

    Draft WQOs are currently being developed for estuarine, coastal and marine and Groundwater eocsystems. These will be made available for review in the near future.


    Further Information and additional guidance documents

    Technical Guidance on the Setting of Water Quality Objectives

    An explanatory document that detail the WQO Setting process


    Fact Sheet - Setting Water Quality Objectives in Tasmania

    National guidance documents for key indicators and associated WQGs for the protection of environmental values for determining WQOs are provide through the links below.

  • Industrial Water Use: Industry specific guideline values can be determined but most likely other PEVs, such as the protection of aquatic ecosystems, will have more stringent WQGs.

    Contributing to the review

    For more information on how you can contribute to the water quality objective setting process in Tasmania contact the EPA on 6165 4599 or email waterinfo@environment.tas.gov.au

Water Section
134 Macquarie Street
Hobart TAS 7000
Phone: 03 6165 4599 Fax: 03 6173 0254
Email: water@epa.tas.gov.au