What is the NRHP?

The goal of the National River Health Program (NRHP) is to provide the information needed to reverse the degradation of our inland waters. The objectives of the National River Health Program are to:

  1. Provide a sound information base on which to establish environmental flows;
  2. Undertake a comprehensive assessment of the health of inland waters, identify key areas for the maintenance of aquatic and riparian health and biodiversity, and identify stressed inland waters;
  3. Consolidate and apply techniques for improving the health of inland waters, particularly those identified as stressed; and
  4. Develop community, industry, and management expertise in sustainable water resources management and raise awareness of environmental health issues and needs of our rivers.

AUSRIVAS and the Physical and Chemical Assessment Module

An Australia-wide assessment of river health is continuing, under the National River Health Program. This assessment uses a rapid, nationally standardised approach for assessing riverine ecological health, referred to as the Australian River Assessment Scheme (AUSRIVAS).

Within the AUSRIVAS component of the NRHP, a suite of 'toolbox' projects has been commissioned with the aim of either refining the existing assessment techniques, or developing additional aspects of river health assessment that are complementary to those made by the AUSRIVAS macroinvertebrate predictive models. One of these projects is the development of a physical and chemical assessment module.

The physical and chemical assessment module had two major objectives:

Physical and Chemical Assessment Module: Objective 1

To adopt a standardised protocol within AUSRIVAS for the assessment of river physical and chemical condition incorporating instream physical habitat, catchment geomorphology, riparian condition and water quality.

The completed Physical Assessment Protocol details a standardised rapid method for the collection of geomorphological, physical habitat, riparian and basic water quality data.

Physical and Chemical Assessment Module: Objective 2

To build software to incorporate the physical and chemical assessment module into the AUSRIVAS software platform, with relevant text resources and diagnostic outputs, integrated with the results of bioassessment.

The AUSRIVAS Physical and Chemical Reporting software utilises the existing AUSRIVAS data and reports the status of a test site in relation to reference sites. The Physical and Chemical Reporting software is not a tool for quantifying the physical condition of a test site, instead, the software allows the user to flag test sites that have physical and chemical characteristics that sit outside the range of characteristics found at corresponding reference sites. These physical and chemical characteristics can then be examined alongside the AUSRIVAS O/E scores to provide insight into the causes of biological degradation at a test site.