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National River Health Programme

1993 - 2001

Rivers are a connecting link within natural systems. They provide drainage from and supply of water to a catchment. As a link, rivers are also a reflection of the total system and the health of the river can be an indicator of the health of the broader landscape. As river systems increase in size, so too do their potential problems.

National River Health Programme (Phase 1 1993 - 2001)

The National River Health Programme (NRHP) has developed Australia’s first nationally consistent and standardised method of assessing river health. The Australian River Assessment Scheme (AUSRIVAS) is a rapid bioassessment method which utilises macroinvertebrates as sensitive indicators of in-stream health. The approach is now being used by all States and Territories in Australia’s First National Assessment of River Health. More than 2,000 sites have been tested to date.

NRHP (Phase 1) also researched techniques to: 

  • estimate and manage environmental flow to rivers and floodplains;
  • how to manage water storages;
  • the relationship between flow and river biota; and
  • the water requirements of wetlands.

This work was essential for the successful implementation of the COAG water reforms. The second phase of R&D investment in river health and environmental flows is managed directly by Environment Australia through the NHT.

Phase 1 - Collaborating organisations

Lead agency 

Land & Water Australia

Funding partners

Department of the Environment and Heritage , Murray Darling Basin Commission (Environmental Flows Decision Support Systems Sub-programme).

Associate partner

Water Services Association of Australia

Phase 1 Highlights

For information on the National River Health Programme contact -

National River Health Program Manager, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (02) 6274 2254.

Resources and Information produced by the NRHP is also available at the Australian Governments Water portal

id: 3190 / created: 15 April, 2009 / last updated: 13 August, 2009