NHMRC contributes to the National Water Quality Management Strategy. The strategy aims to protect our water resources while delivering good quality water to meet the needs of communities, businesses, industry and the environment.

Under the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992, NHMRC has a responsibility to issue guidelines and advise the community, the Commonwealth and States and Territories on matters relating to improving health and preventing disease.

In Australia, the primary responsibility for water quality management lies with state and territory governments, except for areas like Commonwealth marine waters. The Australian Government works with all states and territories to provide the best available information to support these governments establish their own guidelines and regulations for managing the quality and supply of water that is fit for purpose.

To contribute to this, NHMRC has an ongoing role to maintain the currency of its drinking and recreational water quality guidelines that are part of the National Water Quality Management Strategy. The National Water Quality Management Strategy is an Australian Government Department initiative in partnership with state and territory governments. It aims to protect the nation's water resources by improving water quality while supporting communities, businesses, industry and the environment that depends on water.

1. NHMRC Guidelines and advice

Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2011)

The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines are part of the National Water Quality Management Strategy (Document 6) and provide an authoritative reference to the Australian community and the water supply industry on what defines safe, good quality drinking water, how it can be achieved and how it can be assured. The rolling revision of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines is overseen by the NHMRC Water Quality Advisory Committee.

April 2023: NHMRC has identified a minor inconsistency in the September 2022 update to the microbial water quality guidance (Chapter 5 and Appendix 3 of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines). For more information on the error and the corrections that will be made to the next version of the guidelines, please see the Public Notice available on the guideline publication page.

December 2023: NHMRC is proposing minor consequential amendments to align the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines with updated guidance on microbial water quality that was published in September 2022. Other minor corrections will also be made to improve the clarity and consistency of the guidelines. For more information on the proposed amendments that will be made to the next version of the guidelines, please see the Public Notice available on the guideline publication page.

Further information

Guidelines for Managing Risks in Recreational Water

The Guidelines for Managing Risks in Recreational Water are part of the National Water Quality Management Strategy (Document 5) and their purpose is to protect human health from threats posed by the recreational use of coastal, estuarine and fresh waters.

August 2019 – NHMRC has released an addendum to the Guidelines for Managing Risks in Recreational Water: Guidance on per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in recreational water.

NHMRC undertook a targeted consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders from May – October 2022. Feedback received will be collated into a report to be published with the updated guidelines.

Further information

Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling: Augmentation of Drinking Water Supplies

The Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling: Managing Health and Environmental Risks (Phase 2) Augmentation of Drinking Water Supplies (Document 22 of the National Water Quality Management Strategy) extend the guidance given in Phase 1 on the planned use of recycled water (treated sewage and storm water) to augment drinking water supplies. The Guidelines focus on the water source, initial treatment processes and blending of recycled water with drinking water sources.

Further information

Health effects of water fluoridation

In Australia, community water fluoridation programs are considered a safe and effective way of reducing tooth decay across the population.

Further information

Community Water Planner

The Community Water Planner was a web-based tool developed to accompany the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines and assist managers of remote community water supplies in preparing risk management plans. The tool was decommissioned on 12 June 2020.

Further information

2. NHMRC committees advising on water quality

Water Quality Advisory Committee

The Water Quality Advisory Committee (the Committee) provides expert advice to NHMRC on public health issues related to drinking water quality. The major role of the Committee is the rolling review of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

Further information

Recreational Water Quality Advisory Committee

The Recreational Water Quality Advisory Committee (the Committee) provides expert advice to NHMRC on public health issues related to recreational water quality. The primary role of the Committee is the revision of the Guidelines for managing risks in recreational water.

Further information

Drinking Water Disinfection By-Products Advisory Committee

This committee no longer exists. The functions have been absorbed into those of the Water Quality Advisory Committee

3. Additional information on water quality issues

Further information

For further information on Australian water quality guidelines, please visit the Water Quality Australia website.

For further information on NHMRC's work on Water Quality and Health, or to join our Water stakeholder mailing list contact water@nhmrc.gov.au