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Improving water quality management in Tasmania

A comprehensive review of the State Policy on Water Quality Management will help strengthen the management of Tasmania’s water catchments.

The Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, David O’Byrne, has released a response to public submissions which outlines future options for the policy.

"The State Policy on Water Quality Management 1997 sets the framework for improving water quality monitoring, measurement and reporting," Mr O’Byrne said.

"It is applicable across all of Tasmania’s fresh and marine waters.

"The review of the policy found that it remains a contemporary and effective tool for water quality management.

"However, it also identified ways to improve the policy in relation to Tasmania’s Resource Management and Planning System and to make it more user-friendly to water managers."

One of the preferred options identified in the review is to convert the policy from a State Policy to an Environment Protection Policy (EPP).

"This would enable the Government to incorporate a number of recommended changes into the EPP and bring Tasmania into line with other Australian jurisdictions, where water quality policy is made under state environmental management laws," Mr O’Byrne said.

"The Government has endorsed this approach, and we will initiate a process to convert the existing State Policy into an EPP. This is a statutory process, with an independent review.

"As well as taking into account the submissions received during the original review, the process will involve further public consultation, allowing stakeholders and the wider community to have their say on this important issue."

Another key finding of the review was for the further development of water quality guidelines and objectives for priority waterways.

"The responsibility for developing water quality guidelines and objectives sits with the independent EPA Board," Mr O’Byrne said.

"The EPA Board will work closely with my Department to progressively establish these in line with the review’s findings.

"The policy applies to general water quality, but in doing so will also improve the quality of water used for drinking water supplies.

"Most of Tasmania’s drinking water comes from multi-use catchments, so improving or maintaining general water quality will protect drinking water supplies as well.

"Together with the other water quality initiatives underway, finding ways to improve water quality in Tasmania is a key issue for the Government."

As part of the review a discussion paper was released, with 22 submissions received in response. Mr O’Byrne said these were considered carefully in finalising the review.

The response paper and discussion paper can be downloaded from the EPA Division’s website, see www.environment.tas.gov.au and click on the Review of the State Policy on Water Quality Management icon. Printed copies can be obtained by phoning 62334028.