River managers require tools to assess the ecological condition of waterways and prioritise management strategies. As benchmarking the condition of an entire waterway with detailed surveys is often not practical, Rapid Environmental Assessment Techniques have been developed to provide an indication of the state of a river's health, both rapidly and at a low cost. In this investigation, three such techniques, developed recently in Australia, are applied to the same creek in order to compare the outcomes and the levels and types of resources required for their application.
The output from the three indices ranges from descriptive to statistically analysed data, making them difficult to compare directly. Overall, the three indices all report that the sample creek had relatively poor health. The results from the Victorian Index of Stream Condition and New South Wales' Pressure, Biota, Habitat Stream Assessment appear to correlate well.
An important finding of the investigation is the variation in the resources required to apply each assessment technique. Generally, the resource demands increase with the requirement for a higher level of scientific rigour. The methods are either relatively inexpensive and rapid to undertake or more resource intensive, yet thorough in the data collected. A two step process incorporating the techniques in a cost-effective manner is recommended.