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The marine monitoring program aims to:
- assess water quality
- identify and investigate risks, like pollution
- protect and improve water quality.
Marine monitoring at fixed sites
EPA currently monitors marine water quality at fixed sites located at:
- Port Phillip Bay
- Western Port
- Gippsland Lakes.
EPA’s fixed marine monitoring sites
EPA has been monitoring these fixed sites since 1984, to understand long-term trends of environmental conditions in some of Victoria’s most stressed marine systems.
This is the only continuous dataset of marine water quality in Victoria that aligns with the water quality objectives in the State Environment Protection Policy (Waters).
Samples are collected monthly and analysed for:
- nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and silicate)
- water clarity (total suspended solids and turbidity)
- dissolved oxygen
- algae (chlorophyll-a)
- metals (arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel and zinc)
- water temperature
- photosynthetically active radiation.
The annual Report Card provides a snapshot of water quality in Port Phillip Bay, Western Port, the Gippsland Lakes and the waterways in their catchments.
Recreational water quality – Beach Report
In the summer months (December to March each year) EPA monitors water quality at 36 beaches in Port Phillip Bay as part of our Beach Report program.
Samples are collected weekly and tested for Enterococci – a group of bacteria found inside warm-blooded animals. Enterococci is recognised as the best indicator for measuring faecal contamination of marine recreational waters.
The results and daily water quality forecasts are available on our website.
New water quality standards for Beach Report
EPA’s forecasts for 36 Bay beaches are published on the Beach Report.
This summer, we will use new stricter water quality standards for the first time.
The new standards may result in EPA issuing more swim advisories during the summer.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that water quality is worse than previous years.
It means the new standards are working with a more precautionary approach to protect public health.
The new standards are based on scientific studies. The studies link levels of microbes in water with the actual risk of illness.
We urge you to check the Beach Report before swimming.
You can also sign up for a free SMS service. You’ll get a text when the water at a beach near you is forecast to have poor quality.
Water quality forecasts are also on our Twitter feed. Follow @EPA_Victoria.
See a doctor if you suspect illness after swimming.
Daily water monitoring on board Spirit of Tasmania
EPA, in partnership with Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), has installed automated water quality monitoring systems on board Spirit of Tasmania I. The system collects continuous measurements while travelling from Port Melbourne, through Port Phillip Bay and across Bass Strait to Tasmania every day. It measures:
- phytoplankton (via fluorescence monitoring)
The data helps us assess the impact of events and activities such as floods, algal blooms and dredging in the bay. It also helps us understand water-mixing processes between Port Phillip Bay and Bass Strait, and has shown us how climate affects water quality trends in the bay.
When marine pollution is reported to EPA, we may respond by inspecting the impacted area and taking samples.
Signs of water pollution might be:
- water that looks cloudy or coloured
- water that has an unusual smell
- water that has foams or oil films on the surface
- dead fish in the area
- algal blooms
- litter or other substances in the water.
If you notice pollution in the marine environment, please report it to us on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC).
EPA partners with government departments, community organisations and university researchers to undertake research projects to help us understand marine systems.
Our research focuses on understanding the processes controlling changes in the environments and where impact issues have been identified.
These are some recent examples:
- research to understand seagrass and reef communities in partnership with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP)
- development of the Victorian Marine Operational Model (VIC-MOM) – an open-access online tool to track marine-pollution
- working with community groups in Port Phillip Bay to monitor microplastics – an emerging pollutant issue.
Data and reports
Contact us to obtain previous data sets from EPA, obtain copies of any assessment reports, or if you have any questions about the data we collect.
This page was copied from EPA's old website. It was last updated on 2 June 2018.
Reviewed 16 September 2020