Definition of Environmental Values in the Queensland Water Quality Guidelines

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Water quality guidelines are technically-derived numerical measures (e.g. concentrations) or descriptive statements to protect aquatic ecosystems and human water uses and values (e.g. irrigation, stock watering, recreation). They can be derived for a range of physico-chemical, biological and habitat indicators based on best-available science. In Queensland, water quality guidelines are developed under the frameworks outlined in the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality (Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council – ANZECC, 2000) and the Queensland Water Quality Guidelines. The Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality have been prepared as part of Australia’s National Water Quality Management Strategy (NWQMS).

Aquatic Ecosystems


The intrinsic value of aquatic ecosystems, habitat and wildlife in waterways and riparian area-example, biodiversity.ecological interactions, plants, animals, key species (such as turtles, platypus, seagrass and dugongs) and their habitat, food and drinking water.

Waterways include perennial and intermittent surfaces, waters, ground waters, tidal and non-tidal waters, lakes storages, reservoirs, dams, wetlands, swamps, marshes, lagoons, canals, natural and artificial channels and the bed and banks of waterways.

Three possible 'levels of protection' contained in the Australian water quality guidelines (AWQG):

  • High conservation value aquatic ecosystems (HEV) - Level 1 are largely unmodified or have undergone little change due to human activities and are often found within national parks, conservation reserves or inaccessible locations.
  • Slightly to moderately disturbed aquatic ecosystems (SMD)- Level 2 have experienced some change from human activities but are not considered highly disturbed (see below). Aquatic biological diversity may have been affected to some degree, but the natural communities are still largely intact and functioning.
  • Highly disturbed aquatic ecosystems (HD) - Level 3 are degraded systems likely to have lower levels of naturalness but may still retain some ecological or conservation values.

Primary Industries

Irrigator.jpg Irrigation: Suitability of water supply for irrigation-for example, irrigation of crops, pastures, parks, gardens and recreational areas.
House.jpg Farm Water Supply: Suitability of domestic farm water supply, other than drinking water. For example, water used for laundry and produce preparation.
Cow.jpg Stock Watering: Suitability of water supply for production of healthy livestock.
Prawn.jpg Aquaculture: Health of aquaculture species and humans consuming aquatic foods (such as fish, molluscs and crustaceans) from commercial ventures.
Shell.jpg Human Consumers of Aquatic Foods: Health of humans consuming aquatic foods-such as fish, crustaceans and shellfish (other than oysters) from natural waterways.

Recreation and aesthetics

Swimmer.jpg Primary Recreation: Health of humans during recreation which involves direct contact and a high probability of water being swallowed-for example, swimming, windsurfing, diving and water-skiing.
Yacht.jpg Secondary Recreation: Health of humans during recreation which involves indirect contact and a low probability of water being swallowed-for example, wading, boating, rowing and fishing.
Eye.jpg Visual Recreation: Amenity of waterways for recreation which does not involve any contact with water-for example, walking and picnicking adjacent to a waterway.

Drinking Water

Glass.jpg Drinking Water: Suitability of raw drinking water supply. This assumes minimal treatment of water is required-for example, coarse screening and/or disinfection.

Industrial Uses

Pollution.jpg Industrial Uses: Suitability of water supply for industrial use-for example, food, beverage, paper petroleum and power industries. Industries usually treat water supplies to meet their needs.

Cultural and Spiritual Values

Feet.jpg Cultural and spiritual values: Indigenous and non-indigenous cultural heritage, for example,

  • custodial, spiritual, cultural and traditional heritage, hunting, gathering and ritual responsibilities;
  • symbols, landmarks and icons (such as waterways, turtles and frogs); and
  • lifestyles (such as agriculture and fishing).


The Guidelines suggests that the values should:

  • Have support from the community, interest groups and the wider region;
  • Be consistent;
  • Consider the needs of downstream communities; and
  • Consider the values of downstream receiving waterways.

The Guidelines also state that setting of an environmental value may aim to:

  • Improve the current water quality conditions;
  • Achieve a different water quality in each of a number of specified segments of a water body;
  • Recognise that a section of a waterway cannot achieve a certain water quality at a particular time; or
  • Maintain or protect the current condition of a water body and ensure no degradation of the current water quality occurs.


Water Quality Guidelines (EHP)

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