1. The northern half of Western Australia is a large, sparsely populated area with a climate that ranges from monsoonal in the Kimberley to arid in the Gascoyne and Pilbara regions. The aquatic invertebrate fauna is poorly known.
2. Fifty-one sites located on 14 river systems were sampled three times between August 1994 and October 1995. A total of 90 taxa, most identified to family level, were collected. The fauna was dominated by insects, which constituted 74% of the total number of taxa collected.
3. Major habitats at each site were sampled separately and sites with more habitats tended to have a richer fauna. All habitats showed significant differences in taxonomic richness between regions. Family richness decreased with increasing latitude, being highest in the Kimberley region and lowest in the Gascoyne.
4. Despite the differences in taxon richness between regions, community composition of the aquatic invertebrate fauna at the family level did not differ greatly. Four major groups of sites were identified by cluster analysis, based on the invertebrate families present at each site, but differences between groups were small.
5. Significant temporal variation in taxon richness was found in channel habitat but not the three other habitats sampled (riffle, macrophyte, pool-rocks). Community composition in channel habitat varied temporally among groups of sites identified by cluster analysis but the pattern was not consistent.