To complement physical measures or indices of river health a social benchmarking instrument has been developed to measure community dispositions and behaviour regarding river health. This instrument seeks to achieve three outcomes. First, to provide a benchmark of the social condition of communities' attitudes, values, understanding and behaviours in relation to river health; second, to provide information for developing management and educational priorities; and third, to provide an assessment of the long-term effectiveness of community education and engagement activities in achieving changes in attitudes, understanding and behaviours in relation to river health. In this paper the development of the social benchmarking instrument is described and results are presented from the first state-wide benchmark study in Victoria, Australia, in which the social dimensions of river health, community behaviours related to rivers, and community understanding of human impacts on rivers were assessed.
Keywords: ecosystems, human behaviour, river health, social benchmarking, stream condition