Report cards for estuaries along NSW coast

The ecological health of 164 coastal estuaries and beach water quality of NSW beaches are getting brand new report cards today thanks to the NSW Government.

Canoeists on the Parramatta River

Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock said the brand new estuary report cards accessed through interactive maps will further support councils and coastal managers to develop their Coastal Management Programs (CMPs).

"We welcome this data that enables our 52 coastal councils to make evidence-based decisions about their estuaries and monitor results over time," Mrs Hancock said.

"The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) has successfully collaborated with councils, some of which have already produced their own estuaries' report cards, over the past decade.

"This data is very timely – especially for the many coastal councils that are still developing their CMPs."

An estuary is the tidal mouth of a large river, where the tide meets the stream. Taking a series of measurements over time shows how an estuary's health is tracking, reflecting the ecosystem's response to both pressures and management interventions in the catchment area.

"Thanks to scientists in the department, for the first time we're publishing ecological health grades for our estuaries alongside the latest Beachwatch data," Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment Felicity Wilson said.

"The new maps developed by the department will be helpful to avid estuarine swimmers."

"This vital coastal monitoring shows that for the past three summers, 71% of estuaries had good or excellent grades, while the Beachwatch data helps us to know where it is safe to swim in terms of water quality.

"This important work can now be accessed online and is the culmination of monitoring and scientific collaboration with coastal councils that began more than 12 years ago."

Ecological health is not just an indicator of water quality, it reflects how 'healthy' an estuary is.

Scientists measure 2 key estuary stressors – nutrients and sediment – which can lead to nuisance algal blooms or sedimentation that affects the survival of seagrass communities.

Department scientists' monitoring system has become standard monitoring protocol statewide, with a number of councils already adopting it to assess their estuaries.

The report cards' publication is the program's final piece, ensuring key information is easily accessible by local communities and councils.

Publication of the 'Health of our Estuaries Report' data is an early win for the Future Directions Statement for the NSW Coastal and Estuary Management Program, which has an aim to update Estuaries webpages to provide information on estuary water quality.

The NSW estuary monitoring program is funded by the Marine Estate Management Strategy and the interactive maps as well as published report card grades will be available online each year.