The National Water Quality Management Strategy water quality management cycle should not be viewed as a one-off process. The framework is an adaptive management process, i.e. a systematic process for continually improving management policies and practices by learning from the outcomes of operational practices. This means that Initial strategies and processes developed during the first iteration of the process should be subject to ongoing revision, refinement and updating. The review part of the cycle is about reflecting on the lessons learnt during each cycle so that they can be fed back into subsequent iterations.
An immediate priority of the review process is to determine if the current strategies are actually achieving the stated objectives or targets. This involves assessment of monitoring information to determine trends in system condition. If the agreed management actions appear to be having little or no effect in improving condition then there is an obvious need to reassess these actions and the various modelling assumptions that underpin them.
However, the review process is broader than just assessing achievement or otherwise of targets. Ideally it will cover all aspects of the WQ management cycle, including:
- Has our understanding of current condition and system processes improved and if so, how might this influence our indicators, targets and management action priorities?
- Are there new issues that require attention in the strategy?
- Were these processes adequate during the first cycle and if not, how can they be improved?
Environmental values and management goals
- Has the communities’ current and desired values and uses for the waterways changed?
- Are better local guidelines available?
- Do these need to be updated based on any changes above?
- Have these improved to the point that we can better quantify our management action needs?
- Have these actually been completed? What changes to actions and processes of efficiently achieving actions are needed?
- Are there more cost-effective ways of undertaking monitoring?
Information on all of these aspects needs to be gathered together in a coherent form and then fed into the next update of the strategy. Nonetheless, changes and updates to any/all components can be made at any times (e.g. better processes, actions to address new issues such as the Lyngbya blooms in Moreton Bay, South-east Queensland ).
The frequency of major reviews and updates will to some extent be dependent on regional circumstances but they should probably be undertaken at least every 4 years. These reviews should be programmed in as part of the strategy rather than left to chance. Without a strong review process, there is significant risk that strategies will lose momentum and eventually become ineffective.
A review of Healthy Waterways Management in Queensland: Transferring success – an examination of Healthy Waterways management initiative in south-east Queensland – Maher et al., 2002 (PDF 210KB).