Catchment Health Metrics Tool - Catchmetrics

Catchment Health Metrics Tool - Catchmetrics

There is a lack of consensus on Catchment Health Metrics within the water industry. Such a metric would provide decision makers and regulators with a common language and an objective understanding of what is required in order to maintain and improve the health of any given catchment and improve the efficacy of catchment management initiatives.


There is a need to value catchments as a natural water supply system asset. Healthy catchments are essential to protecting our water sources, thereby increasing water security and a catchment’s overall resilience. A healthy catchment contributes to a region’s economic health, enhances environmental protection, and fosters thriving communities. 

On the 4th August 2020 WaterRA industry representatives gathered at the annual research planning event “Horizon”. The Catchment Health workshop aimed to identify what further knowledge was required within the water industry to manage the risks posed to catchment health. 

The Catchment Health group identified that a significant obstacle to achieving agreement on the allocation of resources amongst stakeholders in the water industry and beyond is the lack of a common framework for understanding and assessing the health status of a catchment.

Changes in land use, population growth, urbanisation, climate change and changes in flow regime can all have an impact on catchment health and the ecosystems that live within it. Severe events such as drought and flood will also place stress on catchment systems. To date there is no common framework across the industry for assessing and describing catchment health and therefore consistently evaluating the impacts of these changes.

The proposed project would review and critique existing tools and metrics used across the sector, including case studies and identification of shortcomings. A Catchmetrics Tool would then be developed, incorporating critical indicators with existing/external metrics. Finally, a dashboard will be developed to capture catchment performance. 


  • Quantify economic/financial metrics
  • Undertake a review of sites for a monitoring programme
  • Understand the impact of wastewater discharges – e.g., in urban environment – what would constitute good catchment health
  • Comparison of best practice between states – e.g., for set-back distances of WWTPs

Some of the questions that a Catchment Health Metric tool would help answer are:

  • What are the main hazards to catchment health?
  • Have the risks to catchment health been decreasing, increasing or similar?
  • What future responses are needed to address the risks to the catchment?
  • Where are the priority locations within the catchment for responses?

Other opportunities

  • Improving catchment literacy
  • Community involvement – citizen science
  • Quantifying and communicating the risks of urban development
  • Engaging with planning and development regulators – including them as a stakeholder

Benefits of a Catchment Health Metric

  • Better management
  • Better decisions
  • Consistency in measurement of catchment health and water quality parameters
  • Objective and robust framework
  • Improved capacity to analyse events

Project objectives

  • Establish a baseline from which the catchment health metric tool will be developed through a review and of existing metric tools.
  • Establish a common understanding and language for the analysis, review, and acceptance of catchment management parameters – this would serve to increase acceptance of catchment management projects, increase efficiency of the investment process, allow for better benchmarking, and decrease cost to water utilities and other stakeholders.

Project outcomes

  • The Catchmetrics tool is developed that has high usability by catchment managers and acceptance by stakeholders and regulators.
  • Understand how complex the assessment system can be in order to still be of use to everyone?
  • KPI – The tool will assist catchment managers to meet their organisation’s KPIs.
  • There is a national increase in catchment health
  • The tool will provide catchment managers with the ability to have a live, continuous update of catchment health status – not every 3 years as is currently the case. It will provide an understanding of where the source water sits on the water safety continuum, and also provide the ability to undertake robust cost benefit analysis and assess economic outcomes, measuring the cost efficiencies of investment
  • Knowledge transfer – uptake by multiple parties; combination with HBT and best practice standards in industry; standard metadata to develop programs of investment.

WaterRA Contact

Dr Kelly Hill

Amount being sought

$300-$400K + WaterRA management fee (seeking $20-$60K contributions per organisation -- $10-$20K / FY will achieve leveraging of 1:7)

Due Date

26th Feb, 2021