Commonwealth Government supports Bellingen Riverwatch citizen science program to continue and expand to waterbugs

Bellingen Riverwatch program is “leading the way in citizen science water quality monitoring”.


BELLINGEN Riverwatch, one of the largest water quality monitoring programs taking place in NSW has been going strong for four years with the incredible dedication of over 40 volunteers who work together to test the Bellinger and Kalang rivers at 30 sites each and every month.

“This data represents one of the largest citizen science water quality monitoring data set in NSW”, says Ingrid Garland, from NSW Waterwatch.

“The Bellingen Riverwatch program is leading the way in citizen science water quality monitoring.

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“This program delivers outcomes of community engagement, data collection and confidence, and works directly with it’s volunteers, partners and scientists to continuously improve the project.”

This month, the partnership is proudly announcing the continuation of the program until June 2022, thanks to an injection of funding from the Commonwealth Government.

“The program will be continuing water quality monitoring across the two catchments and will be rolling out biannual macroinvertebrate testing during this phase as well,” says Program Coordinator, Amy Denshire.

“Our scientists have long been asking for aquatic macroinvertebrate (waterbug) testing so this is a fantastic development.”

Freshwater macroinvertebrates (or waterbugs) are small invertebrates that live in freshwater and can be seen with the naked eye or a hand magnifier.

These include juvenile stages of many insects like dragonflies, damselflies, mayflies, caddisflies, water beetles, and more.

Each type of waterbug has a certain sensitivity to pollution or water quality changes in their waterway.

So, the type and number of bugs found in a waterway, can tell you how healthy it is.

“Adding this monitoring regime to our program will give a more holistic understanding of the river health and give insight to the macroinvertebrates available for the diet of the critically endangered Bellinger River Snapping Turtle and other threatened species that rely on our rivers,” said Gerry McGilvray, Saving our Species, NSW Government.

“Waterbugs are a great indicator of what’s happening with the water quality and aquatic habitat in the river and having citizens involved in the waterbug monitoring will add a new dimension to local knowledge,” said Adrian Dickson, Senior Scientist, Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

“Bellingen Riverwatch is taking citizen science forward and by working together with government, consultants and researchers, are ensuring the data collected is accurate, informative, timely and valuable for informing holistic management of waterways and the species they support.

“First and foremost, I would like to thank our incredible volunteers,” said Amy Denshire, Program Coordinator.

“Without them, the program wouldn’t be possible.

“Testing for waterbugs is very complex, focused work which requires much support,” said Amy. “I would like to the thank our partners who work together behind the scenes – NSW Department of Planning Industry and Environment and it’s Saving our Species program, Bellingen Shire Council, OzGREEN, NSW Waterwatch, Project Checkpoint, EnviroComm Connections Pty Ltd, Bellinger Landcare, Local Land Services and Vendart Diagnostics.

“The expanded program is supported by the Australian Government’s $200 million Bushfire Recovery Program for wildlife and their habitat.”

Round 1 started on June 10.

If you are interested in contributing to this waterbug citizen science program in future rounds, please contact Amy on [email protected].

To receive Bellingen Riverwatch data reports and learn more about the health of your subcatchment, sign up at


The type and number of bugs found in a waterway, can tell you how healthy it is.

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