The Water Quality Advisory Committee provides expert advice on drinking water quality and public health.

The NHMRC Water Quality Advisory Committee (the Committee) provides expert advice to NHMRC on public health issues related to drinking water quality.

The primary role of the Committee is the rolling review of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (the Guidelines). Other activities in the Committee's Work Plan are outlined below. 

Committee members provide expertise in the fields of microbiology, toxicology, water quality risk assessment and management, water chemistry and recycling, groundwater hydrology, guidelines and methodology. Jurisdiction representatives with knowledge of implementing the Guidelines are also members. The Committee has observer members from National Indigenous Australians Agency, the Australian Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water, Australian Industrial Chemical Introduction Scheme and Water Services Association Australia.

Committee members are members of professional networks and consult within and outside these networks to provide expert advice on water quality issues nationally and internationally.

The Committee may convene working groups to focus on targeted Work Plan activities and may source additional experts where appropriate.

Terms of reference

Water quality is an important issue requiring a specialist committee to provide technical advice and expertise to the NHMRC. This is part of NHMRC's commitment in its Corporate Plan to maintain a leadership role in the development of public and environmental health advice.

The Committee will:

  1. Provide expert advice on the rolling review of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, focusing on the public health aspects of water quality and priority issues identified by the NHMRC.
  2. Provide rapid scientific and technical advice to the CEO of the NHMRC on current and emerging health issues relating to water quality in Australia, as required.
  3. Provide advice on the translation of research findings into national health related water quality policy and practice initiatives.
  4. Identify evidence gaps in NHMRC water quality guidelines, and advise on the research needs relating to water quality and health.
  5. Work closely with jurisdictional environmental health representatives as required in delivering on the above.

In consultation with NHMRC, the Committee may source additional expertise to conduct its activities if needed.

The Committee will report to Council of NHMRC. Appointments to the Committee will commence on 29 April 2022 and conclude on 31 December 2025.

Work plan 20222025

The Committee work plan has been developed with input from Commonwealth and state/ territory agencies involved in water quality management, industry groups, water suppliers and the general public. 

The current activities of the Committee include:

  • Finalise and publish a updated Chapter 5 in the Guidelines on Microbial quality of drinking water, incorporating new health-based targets (HBTs) advised by the Committee’s HBT Working Group
  • Develop public health advice on the potential impact of lead replacements in plumbing products on drinking water quality
  • Cross-reference the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) 2021 Water sampling guidance for metals in water from plumbing products to the Guidelines
  • Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (the Guidelines): rolling review of 16 chemical fact sheets on 11 prioritised chemicals and five disinfectant by-products
  • Consider updating the Community Water Planner, a companion resource of the Guidelines
  • Work in collaboration with the enHealth Water Quality Expert Reference Panel on matters related to water quality.

Member Information and Disclosure of Interests

Members are appointed for their expertise and experience across a diverse range of professions and fields. NHMRC also takes into consideration balancing the benefit of having persons with expertise against the risks of their interests biasing a process. Committee members are required to disclose their interests on an ongoing basis, in line with NHMRC's Policy on the Disclosure of Interests Requirements for Prospective and Appointed NHMRC Committee Members. This policy reflects the disclosure of interest requirements in section 42A of the NHMRC Act and subsection 29(2) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act).

Members are asked to identify, to the best of their ability, interests related to drinking water quality including:

  • financial interests
  • working or personal relationships
  • research funding
  • affiliations or associations
  • institutional interests
  • publications and presentations
  • social or other interests.

A summary of each members' declared interests is provided below. Throughout the project members are required to inform NHMRC of any changes to their interests, and management strategies are put in place as needed.

Committee members

Chair,
Professor
Nicolas
Ashbolt

Executive Dean, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Southern Cross University. Extensive experience in health-related water microbiology as a researcher/academic, mostly in the field of environmental pathogen detection, fate and transport interpretation (via Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment).

Declaration

  • WHO Technical Advisory Group on Water Quality and Health (since 2015-current), for input into drinking, recreational and reuse guidance documents and microbial pathogen performance of on-site drinking water treatment devices.
  • Water Research Foundation (WRF) Academic Advisory Committee (2016-2019) and Project Advisor Committee (PAC, 2019-2022) for WRF 5040, Successful Implementation of Decentralized Reuse and Treatment Systems.
  • National Water Research Institute (NWRI) expert panel member (2015-2021) on various non-potable water risk management and regulation projects.
  • Editor in Chief voluntary role as part of my professional contributions as a Fellow of the International Water Association.
  • Led water microbiology research into premise plumbing pathogens (e.g. Legionella pneumophila, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, non-tuberculous mycobacteria) and the role of free-living amoeba hosts that also supported viable human enteric viruses through treatment processes and environmental dissemination.
  • Numerous national and international research grants and collaborations

Dr
David
Cunliffe

South Australian Department for Health and Wellbeing. Expertise in water regulation, microbiology and risk assessment.

Declaration

  • Provide specialist advice and policy on public health aspects of water quality including management and provision of drinking water, management and use of recycled water and use of recreational waters.
  • Contribution to WHO Drinking Water Guidelines leading to publication of background documents (e.g on toxic cyanobacteria in 2021), specialist texts and two addenda to the 4th edition of the guidelines.
  • Occasional invitations to provide keynote presentations at international meetings.
  • Published a number of scientific research journal articles
  • Contributed to: WHO (2021) Water, sanitation, hygiene, and waste management for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, NRMMC/EPHC/NHMRC (2008) Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling: Managing Health and Environmental Risks (Phase 2). Augmentation of Drinking Water Supplies, enHealth Guidance on the Use of Rainwater Tanks and Numerous fact sheets and guidance documents for the SA Department for Health and Wellbeing on drinking water and recreational waters
  • Membership of the program committees including for the Singapore International Water Week and Australian Water Association Annual Conference OzWater.

Mr
Cameron
Dalgleish

Tasmanian Department of Health. Expertise in environmental science, water quality and risk management, auditing, public health.

Declaration

  • Health regulator for drinking water safety in Tasmania; administering legislation, policy and guidelines for both drinking water quality and fluoridation. A working understanding of the implementation of the Guidelines framework
  • An environmental scientist specialising in water chemistry with 20 years’ experience in the water industry. Previously worked across construction, natural resource conservation, environmental management and as a health regulator.
  • Appointments: Member of the enHealth Water Quality Expert Reference Panel and the National Recycled Water Regulators Forum. Secretariat of the Tasmanian Fluoridation Committee * Publication of journal articles, reports, fact sheets, guidelines and presentations at national conferences, seminars and workshops.
  • Public Servant: State Water Officer, Department of Health Tasmania

Professor
Cynthia
Joll

Deputy Director at Curtin Water Quality Research Centre, Curtin University. Expertise in analytical chemistry with a focus on disinfection by-products, both in terms of formation, detection and analysis of the chemicals.

Declaration

  • Previously Deputy Director, Curtin Water Quality Research Centre, Curtin University. The Curtin Water Quality Research Centre was a Strategic Research Alliance with the Water Corporation of WA. Member representative for Curtin University to Water Research Australia. Currently, Professor and Leader of the Curtin Water Quality Research Group.
  • Chief Investigator on past ARC Linkage projects on disinfection by-products in drinking water systems, and other drinking water and wastewater projects, with partner organisations Water Corporation of WA and Water Research Australia.
  • Current, past and future projects funded by water utilities on wastewater treatment, water recycling, and drinking water treatment and distribution, including formation of disinfection by-products and analysis of their concentrations in drinking water distribution systems.
  • Published numerous research papers, conference publications, reports, books and book chapters on wastewater treatment, water recycling, source water quality and drinking water treatment and distribution, including disinfection by-products.
  • Participation in national and international academic and industry conferences

Mr
Peter
Rogers

Water and Public Health Expert. Expertise in critically analysing scientific evidence in public health including the areas of drinking water quality, wastewater management, beach water quality, asbestos management and disaster management.

Declaration

No interests declared

Dr
Bala
Vigneswaran

Central Coast Council. Experience in water-related public health, water microbiology, water chemistry, water recycling, hydrology, water quality risk assessment and risk management.

Declaration

Has served in the New South Wales regional councils for over five years in positions concerning water resources, water treatment processes and system compliance.

Associate Professor
Harriet
Whiley

Flinders University, College of Science and Engineering. Leads the Flinders Water Quality and Health Research Consortium and is the Water and Health theme leaders for the Biofilm Research and Innovation Consortium

Declaration

  • Holds an indirect, non-pecuniary interest through my role as SA Branch Committee Member for the Australian Water Association (2021-2022).
  • Holds an indirect financial interest through my ongoing research collaborations with Enware, a manufacturer and distributer of commercial and industrial plumbing products.

Dr
Sonia
Colville
(Observer)

Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water.

Declaration

No interests declared

Dr
Kerry
Nugent
(Observer)

Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme.

Declaration

Member of Government standard setting committee.

Mr
Adam
Lovell
(Observer)

Executive Director at Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA). Board Chair of the Global Water Research Coalition (GWRC).

Declaration

  • Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) - Executive Director
  • Peak industry body representing the urban water industry
  • Global Water Research Coalition (GWRC) – Board Chair. The GWRC is a non-profit organisation that serves as a focal point for the global collaboration for research planning and execution on water and wastewater related issues.

Mr
Laurence
Wilson
(Observer)

National Indigenous Australians Agency.

Declaration

No interests declared