Water monitoring

Under the Water Act, water resource investigations are undertaken to enable effective planning for water resource development and environmental protection. 

A continuous program for the assessment of water resources of the Northern Territory (NT) is carried out, including the investigation collection, collation and analysis of data concerning the occurrence, volume, flow, characteristics, quality, flood potential and use of water resources, 

In the NT water resources are monitored by three different entities, which are:

  • Department Land Resource Management (DLRM) measure and determine the state of the natural resource
  • Power and Water Corporation measure and determine water for public water supply 
  • Department of Mines and Energy administer monitoring undertaken by mining companies in compliance with mine management plans.

DLRM water monitoring is done in specific locations for defined purposes as outlined below.

Water allocation assessments

Where Water Allocation Plans are declared or proposed, monitoring of water quality, ground water level and river level and flows is undertaken enabling assessments and models to be generated. 

These are used to ensure that water allocation is undertaken in compliance with water allocation legislation.

Water supplies

Monitoring is undertaken to provide data for assessment, design and viability studies for the provision of infrastructure for future water supplies. 

As communities in the NT grow, extensive datasets are required to determine where and what type of facility is required to meet the future water demands of the community.

Land and water suitability

The Land and Water Suitability Program provides information to stakeholders regarding the nature and suitability of land, and the potential yield from viable water resources for agriculture within specified project areas.

Monitoring for this program consists of one-off fixed term data collection in areas where there is limited or insufficient historic information.

Flood monitoring

Near real time monitoring of river heights and rainfall at key locations is undertaken to provide sufficient warning to flood prone communities of impending river rises. 

Data is provided to the Bureau of Meteorology who run models based on the data; providing a prediction of maximum flood level and time to peak. 

Predictions help police and Emergency Services to implement flood action plans. 

Alice Springs is prone to flash flooding so for this catchment the flood warning function is conducted by DLRM.

Infrastructure alerting

Monitoring of river heights in near real time is done to provide third parties with warning of rising river heights that may impact on essential infrastructure such as road bridges, railway bridges and low level crossings. 

Automated alerts provide fore-warning to operators to close roads or bridges prior to inundation.

Monitoring waterway health

Water quality monitoring and ecological health assessments are undertaken in Darwin Harbour and selected river catchments of the NT to ensure the good ecological condition of our waterways is maintained.

The following categories of water data are collected by DLRM:

  • groundwater levels in bores measured either continuously or seasonally to determine the maximum, minimum levels and seasonal rate of change of an aquifer’s water surface.
  • rainfall data measured on an event basis to determine the intensity, location and spatial distribution of rainfall within a catchment
  • continuously measured river level data defining the frequency and length of time a river flows, the river height range and river response to catchment rainfall
  • river and spring flows are undertaken as discrete measurements called gaugings. Gaugings are performed throughout the stage range, defining the relationship between river height and flow at a specific location. This relationship, called a rating table, is used to create continuous flow datasets from river height data
  • water quality data collected include physical and chemical properties of waters, nutrient monitoring and biological monitoring of macroinvertebrates and fish as well as targeted research to improve our understanding of ecological processes. The data is used to help us understand the potential impacts that increased development and changes in water quality may have on our ecosystems.

Water metadata

Water metadata (data about data) is collected when a monitoring site is initially setup, and updated over time as conditions at a monitoring site change. 

Water metadata generally includes the following:

  • where and when monitoring occurs
  • how it is being collected
  • the quality of the data collected and whether it has been collected to a recognised standard or process
  • who collected it and why
  • one-off field observations.

Metadata can be made up of field notes, photographs or video footage used to tell a story about the monitoring process.

Last updated: 18 April 2016