National Water Quality Management Strategy


On 21 September 2015, responsibility for water policy and resources was transferred to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources - Administrative Arrangement Order made on 21 September 2015.

This website will be updated to reflect these changes.


The National Water Quality Management Strategy (NWQMS) is a joint national approach to improving water quality in Australian and New Zealand waterways. It was originally endorsed by two Ministerial Councils - the former Agriculture and Resources Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ) and the former Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC).

Since 1992 the NWQMS has been developed by the Australian and New Zealand Governments in cooperation with state and territory governments. Ongoing development is currently overseen by the Standing Council on Environment and Water (SCEW) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

The NWQMS aims to protect the nation's water resources, by improving water quality while supporting the businesses, industry, environment and communities that depend on water for their continued development.

The NWQMS consists of three major elements:

  1. Policy
  2. Process
  3. Guidelines

Latest news

Revision of the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality (2000)

Document 4: Australian and New Zealand guidelines for fresh and marine water quality - 2000 is currently under review. Updates will be provided by the Joint Steering Committee for the Revision and posted on this website as the review progresses.

For more information see:

Joint Steering Committee project update - November 2013 (PDF - 21.01 KB) | (DOCX - 24.22 KB)

Joint Steering Committee revision update - November 2013 (PDF - 18.79 KB) | (DOCX - 25.7 KB)

Joint Steering Committee revision update - April 2013 (PDF - 21.7 KB) | (DOCX - 28.37 KB)


The main policy objective of the NWQMS is to achieve sustainable use of water resources, by protecting and enhancing their quality, while maintaining economic and social development.


The NWQMS process involves development and implementation of a management plan for each catchment, aquifer, estuary, coastal water or other water body, by community and government. These plans focus on the reduction of pollution released into coastal pollution hotspots and other aquatic ecosystems around the country. Local government, community organisations and other agencies carry out these plans using the NWQMS to protect agreed Environmental Values (EVs):

The Water Quality Management Framework, used in the NWQMS, outlines a step-by-step process for planning, implementing and managing water quality projects.

Water quality guidelines

Water quality benchmarks:

Groundwater management:

Diffuse and point sources:

Guidelines for Sewerage Systems:

Effluent Management:

Water recycling:

Hard copy versions of some of these guidelines are available from the Australian Water Association.

Other publications

Additional guidelines