Water use benefit index as a tool for community-based monitoring of water related trends in the Great Barrier Reef region
This paper presents a tool for documenting and monitoring water use benefits in the Great Barrier Reef catchments that allows temporal and spatial comparison along the region. Water, water use benefits and water allocations are currently receiving much attention from Australian policy makers and conservation practitioners. Because of the inherent complexity and variability in water quality, it is essential that scientific information is presented in a meaningful way to policy makers, managers and ultimately, to the general public who have to live with the consequences of the decisions. We developed an inexpensively populated and easily understandable water use benefit index as a tool for community-based monitoring of water related trends in the Great Barrier Reef region. The index is developed based on a comparative list of selected water-related indices integrating attributes across physico-chemical, economic, social, and ecological domains currently used in the assessment of water quality, water quantity and water use benefits in Australia. Our findings indicate that the proposed index allows the identification of water performance indicators by temporal and spatial comparisons. Benefits for decision makers and conservation practitioners include a flexible way of prioritization towards the domain with highest concern. The broader community benefits from a comprehensive and user-friendly tool, communicating changes in water quality trends more effectively.