About Report Card
EPA produces an annual Report Card, which gives a 12-month summary of the water quality for:
- Port Phillip Bay
- Western Port
- Gippsland Lakes and their catchments.
These bays and lakes are the largest coastal waterbodies in Victoria.
EPA, Department of Energy, Environment, and Climate Action (DEECA), and Melbourne Water monitor water quality in these regions. Each year, EPA collect samples from the marine bays and lakes. DEECA collect samples from rivers and streams in Gippsland. Melbourne Water collect samples from waterways in greater Melbourne. The sampling data is then collated and used to calculate an annual rating based on key water quality indicators.
A rating of Very Good or Good indicates that water quality meets objectives in the Environment Reference Standard for Victoria. A rating of Poor or Very Poor indicates that the environmental condition of the waterway is under stress.
Stressors such as excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), increased sediment and algal blooms are potential risks to the health of aquatic ecosystems. Report Card provides an annual snapshot of long-term condition and shows a history for each region over the last twenty years.
Overall, water quality has stayed relatively steady, even though population pressures have increased over time.
As water flows from upland forest, through agricultural land, and into urban environments, changes in land use such as urban growth, industrial activities, intensive agriculture and run-off from urban areas may impact water quality.
Read Report Card to find out about water quality
EPA’s Marine Fixed Sites Program provides the backbone of water quality data for the 2021-22 Report Card and is used in conjunction with other agency monitoring for State of Environment reporting.
Data is accessible for the marine systems, via the Victorian Government Data directory:
- EPA Port Phillip Bay Water Quality Data 1984 - 2022
- EPA Western Port Water Quality Data 1990 - 2022
- EPA Gippsland Lakes Water Quality Data 1990 - 2022.
In 2020–21, water quality in the bays, lakes and waterways was similar to previous years.
Water quality was mostly Very Good or Good for rivers in the headwaters of catchments. Water quality generally declined to Poor or Very Poor as the rivers moved through rural, agricultural and urbanised areas in the foothills and coastal plains of the lowlands.
In the bays and lakes, water quality was mostly Very Good or Good for areas that are able to mix with the open ocean. Water quality was generally worse in marine waters adjacent to river entrances that transport sediments and nutrients from urban, industrial and agricultural areas.
Report Card 2020-2021 (publication 1937) has more information.
Water quality in Port Phillip Bay, Western Port, Gippsland Lakes and waterways in their catchments was similar to previous years. The East Gippsland catchment was an exception, where water quality declined from Very Good to Good.
On average, water quality was Very Good or Good for rivers in elevated areas where most rivers begin. Water quality declined to Poor or Very Poor as rivers moved through rural, agricultural and urban areas.
In the bays and Gippsland Lakes, where waters mix with open ocean, water quality was on average Very Good or Good. Where rivers transport pollution from urban and industrial areas, water quality was usually worse near entrances to bays and lakes.
In East Gippsland, there was a decline in water quality at some sites along the upper Tambo and Mitchell Rivers. This was due to long-term lower rainfall.
Sites in bushfire-affected areas in the Gippsland Lakes catchment maintained Very Good water quality. Monitoring results showed that bushfires temporarily impacted water quality at some East Gippsland sites.
Report Card 2019-2020 (publication 1923) has more information.
Water quality in Port Phillip Bay, Western Port, Gippsland Lakes and waterways in their catchments was similar to previous years. Or in some cases, slightly better.
Water quality was generally Good in rivers and streams in forested areas of upper catchments. It declined as waterways moved through rural, agricultural and urban areas.
In the bays and lakes, water quality was on average Good in areas that mix with the open ocean. It was worse where rivers transport pollutants from urban and industrial areas.
Report Card 2018-2019 (publication 1857) has more information.
How EPA works to improve water quality
EPA works to improve water quality in Victoria’s waterways, lakes and bays through a number of initiatives:
- We define outcomes for human health and the environment through the Environment Reference Standard 2021.
- In response to the 2022 floods, EPA developed a Flood Impacted Waterways Program. This program helped us monitor bacteria in Victorian waterways to better understand the level of risk to human health and the environment.
- We carry out targeted stormwater inspections with businesses across Victoria to check they are preventing stormwater pollution risks.
- We provide a year round Beach Report program to inform the community of recreational water quality at 36 beaches around Port Phillip Bay.
- We are piloting a realtime sensors network in Melbourne’s north and west metro areas as part of a Pollution Profiling Program to detect and investigate pollution issues that pose risks to the environment and human health, as part of our regulatory harms work.
- We partner with WorkSafe Victoria, the Victorian Building Authority and Energy Safe Victoria to run the Build Aware Program – an educational campaign that aims to increase awareness in the construction and demolition sector of environmental laws and their responsibilities.
- We also regularly update our guidance to ensure it is current and fit for purpose. Our recent guidance includes:
- The Victorian Government, community and other groups also worked to improve water quality through developing and applying effective policies and projects, including:
- DEECA's Water for Victoria Water Plan, especially the Integrated Water Management Framework
- Lake Wellington Land and Water Management Plan
- Melbourne Water's Healthy Waterways Strategy 2018–2028
- Port Phillip Bay Environmental Management Plan
- Waterway health projects across the state, including East Gippsland and West Gippsland.
Find out more about water quality
The Victorian Government, community and other groups continue to monitor water quality to assess the health of Victoria’s water environments. Find out more about water quality monitoring:
Reviewed 24 July 2023