Monitoring the environment

What marine monitoring do we do?

On this page:

Fixed sites

EPA’s fixed marine monitoring sites

EPA currently monitors marine water quality at fixed sites located at:

  • Port Phillip Bay
  • Western Port
  • Gippsland Lakes.

EPA has been monitoring these fixed sites since 1984, to understand long-term trends of environmental conditions in some of Victoria’s most stressed marine systems.

This is the only continuous dataset of marine water quality in Victoria that aligns with the water quality objectives in the State Environment Protection Policy (Waters of Victoria).

Samples are collected monthly and analysed for:

  • nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and silicate)
  • water clarity (total suspended solids and turbidity)
  • dissolved oxygen
  • ammonia
  • salinity
  • algae (chlorophyll-a)
  • metals (arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel and zinc)
  • water temperature
  • photosynthetically active radiation.

See the Yarra and Bay website for annual assessments of water quality in Port Phillip bay and for descriptions of water quality indicators used to assess health in our marine systems.

Recreational water quality – Beach Report

In the summer months (December to March each year) EPA monitors water quality at 36 beaches in Port Phillip Bay as part of our Beach Report program.

Samples are collected weekly and tested for Enterococci – a group of bacteria found inside warm-blooded animals. Enterococci is recognised as the best indicator for measuring faecal contamination of marine recreational waters.

The results and daily water quality forecasts are available on the Yarra and Bay website.

Daily water monitoring on board Spirit of Tasmania

EPA, in partnership with Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), has installed automated water quality monitoring systems on board Spirit of Tasmania I. The system collects continuous measurements while travelling from Port Melbourne, through Port Phillip Bay and across Bass Strait to Tasmania every day. It measures:

  • salinity
  • temperature
  • phytoplankton  (via fluorescence monitoring)
  • turbidity.

The data helps us assess the impact of events and activities such as floods, algal blooms and dredging in the bay. It also helps us understand water-mixing processes between Port Phillip Bay and Bass Strait, and has shown us how climate affects water quality trends in the bay.

We have been capturing measurements since 2008 and the data is available on the IMOS website

Pollution response

When marine pollution is reported to EPA, we may respond by inspecting the impacted area and taking samples.

Signs of water pollution might be:

  • water that looks cloudy or coloured
  • water that has an unusual smell
  • water that has foams or oil films on the surface
  • dead fish in the area
  • algal blooms
  • litter or other substances in the water.

If you notice pollution in the marine environment, please report it to EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC).

Marine research

EPA partners with government departments, community organisations and university researchers to undertake research projects to help us understand marine systems.  

Our research focuses on understanding the processes controlling changes in the environments and where impact issues have been identified.

These are some recent examples:

  • research to understand seagrass and reef communities in partnership with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP)
  • development of the Victorian Marine Operational Model (VIC-MOM) – an open-access online tool to track marine-pollution
  • working with community groups in Port Phillip Bay to monitor microplastics – an emerging pollutant issue.

Request data and reports

Please contact EPA Victoria if you would like to obtain previous data sets from EPA, obtain copies of any assessment reports, or if you have any questions about the data we collect.

Page last updated on 12 Jun 2018