About the Environment Reference Standard

The Environment Reference Standard (ERS) is a new tool made under the Environment Protection Act 2017. The ERS:

  • identifies environmental values that the Victorian community want to achieve and maintain
  • provides a way to assess those environmental values in locations across Victoria.

About environmental values

An environmental value is an aspect of the environment and how we use it that is important to us. It is an outcome Victorians want for human health and the environment. Examples of environmental values include:

  • clean water to swim in
  • sound levels that let us sleep at the night
  • air quality that supports other living things.

What the Environment Reference Standard covers

The ERS is itself made up of many ‘reference standards’. These reference standards are in groups that cover four aspects of Victoria’s environment:

  • ambient air
  • ambient sound
  • land
  • water (surface water and groundwater).

Each reference standard identifies an environmental value.

Most reference standards also have indicators and objectives. These are how we assess if the environmental value is being achieved, maintained, or threatened.

An indicator is something we measure. For example, carbon monoxide is one indicator we use to measure ambient air quality.

An objective is the level of an indicator, or a way of using an indicator, to help us assess the environmental value. For example, for carbon monoxide (the indicator) in ambient air, the objective is 9.0 parts per million (maximum concentration).

Most objectives have a scientific basis for how we assess them. These objectives are usually quantitative, which means they are something we can count or measure. A small number of objectives have a descriptive (qualitative) basis for how we assess them. For example, to assess ambient sound in natural areas it is the kinds of sounds that we hear, not the levels of sound, that are important.

The ERS also defines the parts of Victoria that the reference standards relate to. Some standards apply broadly. For example, the ambient air standards relate to all of Victoria’s ambient air environment. Other standards have environmental values or objectives that just apply to certain areas.

Read more about the ERS

Guide to the Environment Reference Standard (publication 1992)

Authorities that use the Environment Reference Standard

How the Environment Reference Standard applies

Reviewed 8 September 2021