Setting water quality objectives for the health of freshwater fish

Jessica Margaret Dunn, Jia Rong, Maarten McKubre-Jordens, Brent Henderson, Rob Goudey, Robert Anderssen


An important responsibility of the Environment Protection Authority, Victoria, is to set objectives for levels of environmental contaminants. To support the development of environmental objectives for water quality, a need has been identified to understand the dual impacts of concentration and duration of a contaminant on biota in freshwater streams. For suspended solids contamination, information reported by Newcombe and Jensen [North American Journal of Fisheries Management, 16(4):693--727, 1996] study of freshwater fish and the daily suspended solids data from the United States Geological Survey stream monitoring network is utilised. The study group was requested to examine both the utility of the Newcombe and Jensen and the USA data, as well as the formulation of a procedure for use by the Environment Protection Authority Victoria that takes concentration and duration of harmful episodes into account when assessing water quality. The extent to which the impact of a toxic event on fish health could be modelled deterministically was also considered. It was found that concentration and exposure duration were the main compounding factors on the severity of effects of suspended solids on freshwater fish. A protocol for assessing the cumulative effect on fish health and a simple deterministic model, based on the biology of gill harm and recovery, was proposed.

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deterministic model, dimension reduction, environmental objectives, severity scale, statistical analysis, suspended sediment

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ANZIAM Journal, ISSN 1446-8735, copyright Australian Mathematical Society.