Monitoring, evaluating and reporting on estuaries

We collect, analyse and report on data to help us monitor the health of NSW estuaries and the effectiveness of management programs.

Our scientists carry out extensive research on the habitats, biodiversity and potential threats to estuaries. We collect, compare, analyse and evaluate data on these complex ecosystems, measuring and recording their physical characteristics and overall condition.

This allows us to monitor and report on the health of New South Wales estuaries through the NSW Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Program (MER). The program is outlined in the New South Wales Natural Resources: Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Strategy 2010–2015 which guides the monitoring, evaluation and reporting of all natural resources across NSW.

The information we collect helps us to manage estuaries effectively. We can also provide local councils with advice to help them make land-use planning decisions to better protect estuaries.

Our scientists have collated statistical data on the physical features of 184 estuaries in NSW, including their size, location, estuary type and entrance condition.

We have also collected data on many estuaries using tidal and hydrographic surveys. Tidal surveys measure tidal characteristics, including tidal flow and velocity, water levels and water quality. Hydrographic surveys measure the depth and bottom configuration of waterbodies.

Search for information on an individual estuary in NSW.

The Manly Hydraulics Laboratory, a specialist NSW Government unit, assists the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment in the collection and publication of data, including:

  • flow and water quality measurement and investigations
  • oceanographic, coastal, estuarine and riverine process studies
  • investigation and design of hydraulic, coastal and maritime structures.

On behalf of the Department, Manly Hydraulics Laboratory maintains a network of water level recorders. The location of recorders and water level data for these sites can be found on the Manly Hydraulics Laboratory website.

Mapping the physical characteristics estuaries is an important part of our work.

Our scientists have mapped the boundaries of estuaries in NSW and their catchments.

We have also mapped the tidal and mangrove limits in estuaries. This involves recording the upstream tidal limits of estuaries (the point that tides do not pass) and the upstream limit of mangroves for both the main arm and tributaries of estuaries.

Our scientists continue to use past surveys as a baseline with which to compare changing estuary conditions and to inform estuary and coastal management practise.

Read more about our survey of tidal limits and mangrove limits in NSW estuaries.

Find out more about estuarine spatial data.

Our scientists have developed a risk assessment tool to help identify and prioritise land use planning decisions to protect and preserve the health of estuaries in NSW. This tool is called the Coastal Eutrophication Risk Assessment Tool or CERAT.

CERAT consists of:

  • a water quality database
  • contextual spatial information for the catchment or estuary
  • a series of catchment and estuary models for the main (184) estuaries in NSW.

Reports on the data collected on estuaries using the NSW Monitoring, evaluation and reporting program (MER) can be found in the:

Our scientists also contribute content to the OzCoasts website. OzCoasts is an online database that provides information about Australia's coast, including estuaries and coastal waterways. Information includes conceptual models, fact sheets on indicators and management tools and is used by natural resource managers, marine scientists, planners, policy makers and the general public. The content of OzCoasts represents the collaborative efforts of more than 100 coastal scientists from a wide range of government agencies and universities.

The OzCoasts website also provides online access to the Coastal Eutrophication Risk Assessment Tool (CERAT), found in the menu under Natural Resource Management. This tool integrates the latest natural resource management data into catchment reports and estuarine response models for every major estuary in NSW.

This allows natural resource mangers to consider interactions between land-use planning and estuarine health before investment decisions are made.