Frequently Asked Questions

Who can be involved?

Primary School, High Schools, TAFE & Tertiary organisations can become involved in the Waterwatch program by carrying out water quality testing, participate in water bug surveys and other activities, to monitor change in their local waterway or catchment. Waterwatch activities assist in achieving environmental education objectives and outcomes in Curriculum Key Learning Areas.

NSW Waterwatch can help achieve the Objectives of Environmental Education

Source: DEC Environmental Education Policy for Schools, 2001

Waterwatch will assist students to develop

Knowledge and Understanding about:

  • The nature and function of ecosystems and how they are interrelated (K1)
  • The impact of people on environments (K2)
  • The role of the community, politics and market forces in environmental decision-making (K3)
  • The principles of ecologically sustainable development (K4)
  • Career opportunities associated with the environment (K5)

Skills in:

  • Applying technical expertise within an environmental context (S1)
  • Identifying and assessing environmental problems (S2)
  • Communicating environmental problems to others (S3)
  • Resolving environmental problems (S4)
  • Adopting behaviours and practices that protect the environment (S5)
  • Evaluating the success of their actions (S6)

Values and Attitudes relating to:

  • Respect for life on Earth (V1)
  • An appreciation for their cultural heritage (V2)
  • A commitment to act for the environment by supporting long-term solutions to environmental problems (V3)

Landholders & Community Volunteers - whether in an urban or rural area, Waterwatch volunteers can monitor water quality on or near their property. Many volunteers involved in Waterwatch are interested in keeping an eye on their local waterway, and this helps to collect baseline data, creating a history of what conditions are normally, and can often help to pick up any pollution events, or monitor changes overtime.

For any community groups or landholders who get grant funding for on-ground works in or near waterways, Waterwatch monitoring is a great way of tracking the progress of your works in riparian areas, soil health and grazing projects - and this helps to provide evidence in the Monitoring, Evaluation & Reporting (MER) section of your project!


What parameters can you monitor through NSW Waterwatch?

Standard parameters measured for NSW Waterwatch groups include:

  • Temperature: changes in water temperature over time
  • pH: a measure of acidity or alkalinity
  • Conductivity: a measure of salinity levels
  • Turbidity: measures the clarity of water by looking at the amount of suspended sediment
  • Available phosphates: Measurement of the available nutrient (phosphate) in the water. Phosphate is an important nutrient for the growth of aquatic plants and is also released through decomposing organic matter.
  • Oxygen: the amount of oxygen dissolved in the water which is essential for aquatic fauna health.

The following groups can measure these listed parameters -

Primary Schools Temperature, pH, electrical conductivity & turbidity
High Schools, Tertiary organisations, landholders & community volunteers Temperature, pH, electrical conductivity, & turbidity.
Can also add available phosphate & dissolved oxygen tests where applicable.

*Note: Primary schools do not test for available phosphate or dissolved oxygen as these tests involve the use of chemicals.


How often is monitoring of a waterway required?

Schools - minimum twice per school term

Landholders & Community Groups - minimum once per month


How does the data get stored and accessed?

Once you've been trained to monitor your local waterway(s), the water quality data you collect must be uploaded to the NSW Waterwatch database on the Atlas of Living Australia by clicking on the ADD RECORDS menu item on this site.

A login is provided to your group to enter your water quality data.

All data uploaded to the Atlas of Living Australia database becomes publicly available data for other groups, local councils, government departments, and other stakeholders to utilise.


What other activities can you be involved in?

Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Surveys

A macroinvertebrate (or water bug) survey gives an indication of water or ecosystem health based on the diversity and abundance of the water bugs in our waterways. Survey periods are generally in Autumn and Spring, but can be done any time in the year. A water bug survey is particularly useful if you wish to carry out on-ground works in riparian zones. Carrying out water quality testing and bug surveys before, during and after any riparian works (for up to two years) can help to identify if the work is indeed changing conditions in the waterway.

Site & Riparian Assessments

For assessing the characteristics and condition of creeks, Waterwatch also provides simple ways of assessing a site on a waterway, and recording of the condition of the riparian areas. These tools are of particular use for tracking changes in a site or riparian zones for on-ground works or catchment health assessments at multiple sites.

Estuary Monitoring

NSW Waterwatch also has resources for undertaking water quality and habitat monitoring in estuarine areas along the NSW coast.