The information collected in the EHMP is used to advise councils and land managers on areas of declining health, report on the effects of different land uses, and evaluate the effectiveness of management actions aimed at improving and protecting aquatic ecosystems.
SEQ’s local governments have invested significant sums to repair damage to our waterways, including upgrades to WWTPs, stormwater management, and restoration of riparian areas.
The EHMP helps evaluate the effectiveness of these and other investments and management strategies, and also helps to identify emerging issues that may require intervention. To achieve this, the program is embedded into the Partnership’s adaptive management framework, which links monitoring to management. The regional scale approach and ecosystem-based objectives ensure that effective management strategies are implemented throughout SEQ.
The EHMP uses rigorous science to measure waterway health using a broad range of biological, physical and chemical indicators of ecosystem health. These indicators were chosen because they provide essential information about the condition of SEQ’s waterways.
Currently, 135 freshwater sites are monitored twice a year (in spring and autumn), and 254 estuarine and marine sites are monitored on a monthly basis.
The results provide an assessment of the responses of aquatic ecosystems to human activities, such as catchment alterations and point source discharges (e.g. wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), and also take into account natural processes such as rainfall.
Why do we need an EHMP?
South East Queensland has important aquatic ecosystem assets. The waterways of the region provide a number of important ecosystem values, wildlife habitat, visual and recreational amenities. SEQ’s waterways also play a role in providing commercial resources, for example for drinking water, commercial fishing, aquaculture, agriculture and industrial use.
Local councils and CEOs identified that they want to protect these important assets through an integrated regional ecosystem health assessment program to ensure these assets/values are not compromised. They also expressed a need for an evaluation tool of the various on-ground actions implemented.
For example, local governments in recent years have invested $300 million on sewage treatment plant upgrades alone, and during 2002/03, $2.5 million has been invested by local governments on the restoration of riparian areas in SEQ.
As a response to the above, the EHMP was devised to provide an audit mechanism for the management actions undertaken to protect SEQ’s catchments and Moreton Bay.