Johnstone landholders improving water quality outcomes

December 6, 2018

For the past year, the Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project (MIP) has worked with local organisations and landholders to identify ways to improve the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon.

In the lead up to this year’s wet season, farmers are trialling proof-of-concept treatment systems, new water quality monitoring sites are being rolled out, and farm “demonstration” sites being established.

Basin Coordinator Sandra Henrich explains that the project fundamentally responds to demand for relevant, local information about water quality, and solutions that are informed by landscape conditions and local knowledge.

“This project has been designed for locals by locals. Landholders want to make informed decisions that help reduce risk of nitrogen, sediment and pesticide run-off, without compromising productivity or profitability,” said Ms Henrich.

“Growers in the region have made a huge difference to water quality already and we’re hoping that by adding further efforts we can accelerate improvements. Essentially, we’re all working for the same thing – sustainable land management that’s good for local communities, as well as the Reef.”

Farmers in the Innisfail district are trialling nitrogen and sediment treatment systems including a High Efficiency Sediment basin, a denitrification bioreactor and an in-drain wetland. It’s the first time many of these treatment systems have ever been tried in Wet Tropics conditions.

“Landholders are leading the way in looking after our backyard. They’ve not only been willing to test these new treatment systems on their property, but have been integral in the design, construction and monitoring phases,” said Ms Henrich.

Additional local scale water monitoring is underway from the North Johnstone to Silkwood. The data will supplement existing end-of-valley sampling at Coquette Point, meaning landholders will now have access to water quality data at a sub-catchment scale for a better idea of what’s happening in their patch.

“Sampling downstream from sub-catchments with different land uses like rainforest, agriculture and urban will help landholders fill in gaps about how water moves through the basin. Knowing more of the story helps with their decision making about farm practices.”

“The MIP is also working with specific landholders to monitor at the paddock scale to investigate what practices are making a difference and why. These are called “paired demonstration” sites, which uses a collaborative approach with industry stakeholders.”

“The sites investigate the outcomes of different practices and the associated impact on yield and profit. Again, these sites draw on local expertise and consider local conditions such as rainfall, soil type and position in the landscape.” said Ms Henrich.

William Darveniza recently joined the Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project team as District Extension Officer in the Johnstone.

“It’s been fantastic to welcome another local face to the Johnstone MIP team. Local knowledge underpins this project, and Will understands the challenges of farming in the Wet Tropics as well the characteristics specific to this region,” Sandra said.

William will be working closely with farmers in the Johnstone region to support them with all aspects of the MIP program, including water quality monitoring, farm extension and treatment system information.

To find out more, and how you can get involved, call William Darveniza on 0436 622 084 or Sandra Henrich on 0439 916 749.

The Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project is funded by the Queensland Government through the Queensland Reef Water Quality Program.