Water quality accounts

  • Water quality scores for the region's rivers generally improved from 2013–14 to 2016–17.
  • There was little change in water quality scores for the region's lakes and ponds over the same period. 
  • However, overall catchment health condition scores declined over this period.


For further information about water quality in the region scroll down this page or click on the links below:



  • The water quality accounts quantify the health and condition of waterways across the Canberra region.
  • The accounts, using the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting framework, demonstrate water quality and condition at the beginning and end of the reference period, and how quality and condition have changed over time.
  • The water quality score is based on chemical and physical indicators of water quality, including pH, conductivity, turbidity, phosphorus, dissolved oxygen and nitrate. The accounts also present a Catchment Health Indicator Program (CHIP) score, which factors in water bugs and riparian condition, as well as water quality, in order to develop an overall measurement of the water catchment health.
  • The water quality and CHIP scores come with the following ratings (note the lower the score, the better the quality):
    • 1: excellent condition,
    • 2: good condition,
    • 3: fair condition,
    • 4: poor condition, and
    • 5: degraded condition.
  • For more information refer to the Explanatory Note on the ABS webpage. For the full water quality tables in spreadsheet format, please see the Downloads section of the publication.


Water quality of lakes and ponds

  • In 2016–17 the water quality score recorded for all lakes and ponds in the Canberra region was “good”. However, the average CHIP score (which also factors in water bugs and riparian condition) was “fair” for all the lakes and ponds, with the exception of Lake Burley Griffin (data not available).

Figure Q1 Water quality score for lakes and ponds for 2013–14 and 2016–17 years


Water quality of rivers

  • In 2016–17 the Cotter River recorded higher water quality (a water quality score of 1.2) compared to the Murrumbidgee River (1.7) and the Molonglo River (2.1).
  • Water quality in both the Murrumbidgee and the Molonglo rivers improved between 2013–14 and 2016–17. The Molonglo River water quality improved from a score of 3.0 to 2.1 and the Murrumbidgee River improved slightly from a score of 2.0 to 1.7. For the Molonglo River, this improvement was mostly due to a large reduction in recorded turbidity, while for the Murrumbidgee River the improvement was largely due to reductions in the amount of phosphorus detected in the river. Note that a water quality score was not available for the Cotter River for 2013–14.

Figure Q2 Water quality score for rivers for 2013–14 and 2016–17 years


CHIP score by catchment

  • In 2016–17 water resources in the Southern region recorded the healthiest condition (good condition) compared to the Ginninderra and the Molonglo catchments, which both recorded fair condition.
  • The overall condition of the waterways in all three catchments regressed slightly from 2013–14 to 2016–17. The largest regression was in the Southern region, where the CHIP score increased from 2.4 to 2.8, however the Molonglo catchment registered the worst CHIP score (3.3) in 2016-17.

Figure Q3 CHIP score by catchment for 2013–14 and 2016–17 years