Hydra hexactinella was used to assess the toxicity of stormwater and sediment samples from three retarding basins in Melbourne, Australia, using an acute test, a sublethal test, and a pulse test. Stormwater from the Avoca St retarding basins resulted in a LC50 of 613 ml/L, NOEC and LOEC values of 50 ml/L and 100 ml/L, while the 7 h pulse exposure caused a significant increase in the mean population growth rate compared to the control. Water samples from the two other retarding basins were found non-toxic to H. hexactinella. This is the first study to employ sediment tests with Hydra spp. on stormwater sediments and a lower population growth rate was observed for organisms exposed to sediment from the Avoca St retarding basins. The behavioral study showed that H. hexactinella tended to avoid the sediment-water interface when exposed to sediment from all retarding basins, compared to the reference sediment. Further work is needed to determine the long-term effects of stormwater polluted sediments and acute effects due to organism exposure to short-term high concentrations during rain events. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.