Hydrometric Monitoring Networks, 2008 and Beyond. A New South Wales Department of Water and Energy Manager’s perspective.

Ray Boyton - NSW Office of Water , 22 August, 2008

Hydrographers in the NSW Office of Water (part of the Department of Water and Energy DWE) and its predecessor organisations have over the last 30 years seen a great deal of change. Anecdotally, across Australia there has been a very similar experience to that in NSW. Many Hydrographers work for, or contract to various Government agencies. During this period there has been a gradual yet constant rate of reduction of numbers and skill within the group. Hydrographers have seen more restructures and name changes within government agencies than they care to remember. In DWE only the 40 year veterans can recall working in a period of rapid hydrometric expansion, and these staff are planning a well earned retirement.

During the 1960s and early 1970s there was a significant upgrade of sites from daily read gauges to the then state of art float wells and A35 chart recorders. May agencies used short term charts as a bridge between the two monitoring methods. This period also saw an increase in the number of monitoring sites.

In DWE gauging stations were installed to meet a structured resource assessment network. This led to the systematic review of our gauging station network in which catchments were regularly reviewed and sites closed and new one established.

Over time the role of the assessment network has taken a lower priority being replaced by specific needs such as river operations and water quality monitoring (eg salinity), and to meet external clients needs.

The monitoring network is slowly yet constantly changing to reflect the needs of the day; however the rate of change is a concern. Operational needs are now driving the network to a larger degree than previously. Hopefully the needs of today will be those of tomorrow and the day after, and the network begins to stabilise with fewer sites opened and closed.