The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (the Guidelines) provide guidance to water regulators and suppliers on monitoring and managing drinking water quality.

December 2023: NHMRC is proposing minor amendments to the Guidelines to align with updated guidance on microbial water quality that was published in September 2022.

April 2023: NHMRC has identified an error of minor significance in the September 2022 update to the microbial water quality guidance (Chapter 5 and Appendix 3 of the Guidelines).

Information about the proposed consequential amendments to the Guidelines as well as the error and proposed corrections that will be made to the next version of the Guidelines are outlined below in the Public Notice of December 2023 and April 2023.

Publication Data

Reference number
EH52
ISBN
1864965118

The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (the Guidelines) provide a basis for determining the quality of water to be supplied to consumers in all parts of Australia. They are intended to provide a framework for the good management of drinking water supplies that if implemented will assure safety at the point of use. The Guidelines are not mandatory legally enforceable standards and the implementation of the guidelines is at the discretion of each state and territory. The Guidelines are used by state and territory health departments and drinking water regulators, local health authorities and water utilities.

The Guidelines undergo a rolling revision to ensure they represent the latest scientific evidence on good quality drinking water. As sections of the Guidelines are revised, the Table of updates will be updated to provide the latest information.

For specific information on how these Guidelines are implemented in the states and territories, please contact the relevant drinking water regulator or health department.

Update 22 December 2023

PUBLIC NOTICE: Proposed minor amendments to align the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines with updated guidance on microbial water quality

NHMRC is proposing to action minor amendments to align the Guidelines to advice published in September 2022 on microbial water quality (Chapter 5 and Appendix 3 of the Guidelines). These amendments are considered of minor significance as they do not change the overall health-based target recommendations and serve to clarify the original intent of the updated guidance on microbial water quality. There are also a number of minor corrections to the Guidelines that have been included to improve the clarity and consistency of the Guidelines (e.g. typographical errors, formatting errors, consistent terminology).

The Water Quality Advisory Committee (the Committee) assisted in the development of these minor amendments. Both the Committee and the Environment Health Standing Committee (enHealth) Water Quality Reference Panel have reviewed and support the proposed minor amendments.

The proposed amendments that will be made to the Guidelines are outlined in Tables 1 and 2 in the following document:

On 30 November 2023 the Council of NHMRC advised the CEO that the proposed consequential changes to the Guidelines are of minor significance and that public consultation is not required prior to making the updates. This public notice of proposed amendments fulfills the notification requirements in accordance with section 9 of the National Health and Medical Research Council Regulation 2016. This information will be moved into the table of updates when the amendments have been made in the next version of the Guidelines.

Update 28 April 2023 

PUBLIC NOTICE: Proposed Minor corrections to microbial water quality guidance in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (Chapter 5 and Appendix 3) 

NHMRC has identified an error of minor significance in Chapter 5 and Appendix 3 of the Guidelines. An incorrect adjustment value has been applied to the Category 4 protozoa log reduction value (LRV). The final LRVs are not affected by this error and it does not change the recommendations in the Guidelines. The final default LRV targets in Chapter 5 and Appendix 3 have been reviewed and supported by the current Water Quality Advisory Committee and the jurisdictional experts on the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) Water Quality Expert Reference Panel.  

The identified errors are in the explanatory text and footnotes in several places in Chapter 5 and Appendix 3 of the Guidelines. Corrections will be made in these places to clarify how the final LRV was reached and will be published in the next version of the Guidelines. The corrections that will be made to the Guidelines are outlined in Table 1 in the following document:

On 30 March 2023 the Council of NHMRC advised the CEO that the proposed changes to the Guidelines are of minor significance and that public consultation is not required prior to making the updates. This public notice of proposed amendments fulfills the notification requirements in accordance with section 9 of the National Health and Medical Research Council Regulation 2016. This information will be moved into the table of updates when the corrections have been made in the next version of the Guidelines.  

Table of updates

Table of updates
Amendment type Amendment detail Date updated Version number Administrative report
Updated guidance on microbial quality of drinking water Guidance on microbial health-based targets has been developed to assist water regulators and suppliers in better managing health risks from microorganisms found in drinking water. Information in Chapter 5 has been updated to reflect current best practice in managing health risks from microorganisms found in drinking water and Appendix 3 provides details on the derivation of microbial treatment targets for enteric pathogens.

Consequential amendments have been made throughout the guidelines to ensure consistency with updated guidance on microbial quality of drinking water.

A Questions and answers resource has been prepared to highlight the key changes and provide information on the new concepts introduced in the revised guidance.
September 2022 3.8 Administrative Report: Updated guidance on microbial quality of drinking water

Chapter 5: Microbial health-based target update – Questions and answers resource
Updated guidance on radiological water quality Information and terminology in Chapter 7, parts of Chapter 10, Information Sheet 2.2 and factsheets on radium, alpha and beta radionuclides, radon-222 and radiological aspects of the uranium factsheet have been updated to reflect current best practice in radiation protection and radiation measurement. January 2022 3.7 Administrative Report: Updated guidance on radiological water quality
Minor edits to correct errors in the Guidelines
  • The health-based guideline value for uranium has been rounded up from 0.017 to 0.02 mg/L to align with guidance on rounding in Chapter 6.
  • Replacement of missing arrows and bullet points in Information Sheets.
  • Correction of arrows in Figure A1.2 – Critical control point decision tree in Appendix A1.7 – Critical control points
January 2022 3.7  
New guidance on short-term exposure values added to Chapter 9 (Section 9.12) Guidance on short-term exposure values has been developed to assist water regulators and suppliers in managing instances where temporary drinking water contamination occurs, such as during extreme weather events. March 2021 3.6 Administrative Report: Guidance on Short-Term Exposure Values
Minor amendments Editorial changes have been made to correct minor errors, including:
  • CAS number in the glyphosate factsheet
  • contact details for jurisdictional health departments
  • consistency in terminology ('health-related' replaced with 'health-based' in reference to chemical guideline values)
  • removal of information on the Community Water Planner updated hyperlinks and references.
March 2021 3.6  
Development of a new Chemical Fact Sheet: Per-fluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) Health Based Guideline Values and a Fact Sheet on PFAS have been developed. These have been informed by a review conducted by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to determine Australian Tolerable Daily Intakes (TDIs) for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS). August 2018 3.5  
Development of a new Chemical Fact Sheet - lanthanum Chemical Fact Sheet on lanthanum has been developed following a Secondary Notification risk assessment by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme October 2017 3.4 Review of lanthanum fact sheet for inclusion in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 2011
Text added to Chapter 6
  • Addition of guidance on rounding for guideline values.
  • Addition of guidance on parent compounds and environmental transformation products.
  • Addition of guidance on the use of screening assays.
November 2016 3.3  
Text added to Chapter 10 Addition of guidance for comparing analytical results with rounded guideline values. November 2016 3.3  
Minor amendments Editorial changes have been made to correct minor errors, and update references. November 2016 3.3  
Removal of text from Chapter 5 – Microbial Quality of Drinking Water
  • Historical overview text removed, duplicative text removed.
  • Information on viruses deleted for consistency with other waterborne pathogen sections.
November 2016 3.3  
Removal of Appendix 3 – National Water Quality Management Strategy This Appendix is significantly out of date and has been deleted. November 2016 3.3  
Removal of Appendix 4 – Process Report
  • This Appendix is the process report for review of the ADWG prior to 2011. It has been published separately for historical purposes.
  • References to Appendix 4 in the body of the ADWG has been deleted.
November 2016 3.3  
  • Text added to Chapter 6
  • Minor amendments to Chapter 8, sections 8.5 to 8.8, and Table 8.2.
  • Interim guideline values for chemicals that have been detected in drinking water.
  • Clarification of approval process for new drinking water chemicals, and modifications to inconsistencies to section 8.5 to 8.8.
February 2016 3.2  
Minor amendments to Chapters 8 and 10, Tables 8.4 and 10.5, Information Sheets 1.4, 1.6 and 2.1, and Fact Sheets on Campylobacter, Salmonella and Vibrio Editorial changes have been made to correct minor errors, provide further clarification and context, and update references. March 2015 3.1  
Review and update of three Chemical Fact Sheets – chloral hydrate, monochloramine and chlorine Chemical Fact Sheets on chloral hydrate (originally endorsed in 1996), monochloramine (last endorsed in 2011) and chlorine (last endorsed in 2011) have been reviewed and updated following a review of recent literature, including the World Health Organization guidelines for drinking water quality and to correct a rounding error. The guideline value for chloral hydrate has changed. The equivalent guideline value for monochloramine as Cl2/L has changed, which also resulted in a consequential change to the chlorine Fact Sheet. 19 December 2014 3.0  
Minor amendments to contents page and Table 10.5 in relation to changes to the Fact Sheets for chloral hydrate, monochloramine and chlorine Editorial changes have been made to provide further clarification and update guideline values and naming conventions. 19 December 2014 3.0  
Review and update of eight information sheets for water treatment operators on water disinfection. Includes: Introduction to water treatment, Overview of water disinfection, Disinfection with chlorine, Disinfection with chloramine, Disinfection with chlorine dioxide, Disinfection with ozone, Disinfection with ultra-violet light, Other disinfectant These Information Sheets replace the previous Information Sheets which were developed in 2004 and were very general in nature. In revising the Information Sheets, the Water Quality Advisory Committee considered the information on water disinfection already included in the 2011 ADWG, international standards including the WHO Drinking-water Guidelines, and reviewed the recent literature on water disinfection. This information was integrated to produce the revised Information Sheets on disinfection of drinking water, which include additional information on practical aspects of water disinfection. 13 December 2013 2.0  
Review and update of four chemical Fact Sheets – benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes Chemical Fact Sheets on Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene and Xylenes (originally endorsed in 1996) have been reviewed and updated following a review of recent literature, including the World Health Organization guidelines for drinking water quality. The guideline values for these chemicals have not been changed as a result of the review. 13 December 2013 2.0  
New resource – Guidance for issuing and lifting a Boil Water Advisory A new resource has been developed to assist health and environment department officials determine when to issue and lift boil water notices following a drinking water contamination incident. This document has been developed by the WQAC at the request of jurisdictions, following recent natural disasters which led to possible drinking water contamination. 13 December 2013 2.0  

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Process report

This document (available from the download section below) describes the process for the review of the 2004 Australian Drinking Water Guidelines and the development of the 2011 Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. It was previously Appendix 4 to the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2011).