Water quality is a serious environmental concern in the South Coast region of New South Wales as many aspects of human ecology and the economy are dependant on good water quality. Apart from drinking water for residents and visitors, tourism and agricultural productivity rely on good quality water. This paper presents an overview of general issues with regard to the development of water quality assessment procedures and programs, and discusses a number of issues considered important for the region. These include the impacts of increasing urbanisation, industrial activity (including mining), the potential wider use of groundwater and the improved management of water quality information. Issues that need further attention include the potential impacts of climate change on water resources and quality, the development of local water quality guidelines, and the provision of more information on organic contaminants.