Water Quality Improvement Plan

Declining water quality is an issue affecting the whole of Australia as changing populations and land use impact water resources. Terrain NRM is involved in a number of initiatives aimed at alleviating this problem in the Wet Tropics region of North Queensland.

In the Wet Tropics area, the expansion of agriculture and urban settlements is putting pressure on our water resources with the potential to adversely impact the health of the region’s people, waterways and wetlands, terrestrial and aquatic life as well as the Great Barrier Reef.

Wet Tropics' Water Quality Improvement Plan 2015-2020

Terrain has been working with a research organisations, government agencies, Traditional Owners and other regional stakeholders to develop the  Wet Tropics Water Quality Improvement Plan 2015-2020 which has now been approved by the Commonwealth.

The aim of this plan is to better manage our waterways to ensure they remain healthy for the future.

This project is being delivered by Terrain through funding from the Australian Government Reef Programme.

What is a Water Quality Improvement Plan (WQIP)?

Water Quality Improvement Plans (WQIPs) are a vital part of the Australian and Queensland Government's Reef Water Quality Protection Plan (Reef Plan).

The 2013 Reef Plan stated that its long term goal is “to ensure that by 2020 the quality of water entering the reef from broad scale land use has no detrimental impact on the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.”

A WQIP is designed to identify the main issues impacting waterways and the marine environment from land-based activities and to identify and prioritise management actions that will halt or reverse the trend of declining water quality within an NRM region.

This is done, using a wide range of resources and scientific findings, by identifying the following:

  • issues affecting water quality
  • waterway uses and values
  • management goals and objectives
  • ways to monitor and assess effective management

WQIPs also help build long-term partnerships necessary for the implementation of the Plan through programs such as Reef Rescue.

What’s already been done?

WQIPs were first developed with funding from the Australian Government’s Coastal Catchments Initiative (CCI).

Three WQIPs have already been developed in the Wet Tropics for the Douglas, Barron and Tully catchments. These three Water Quality Improvement Plans will be integrated into the new region-wide Plan with key elements that have local ownership, to be incorporated to help ensure continuity in the process.

A water quality monitoring program has also been undertaken in the Herbert catchment.

Why a region-wide WQIP?

Various Reef partnerships and initiatives have produced a wide variety of useful and relevant information in recent years and so, it is now possible to develop a WQIP for the entire Wet Tropics region as a whole.

As well as improving the health of the Wet Tropics catchments, these identified and agreed actions will also help to improve the health of the Great Barrier Reef, which is being affected by excessive amounts of nutrients, pesticides and sediments carried from upstream environments.

At the same time as Terrain developed the Wet Tropics’ Water Quality Improvement Plan, an urban water management plan was also being developed to minimise the impact of urban areas on the Great Barrier Reef.

A regional collaboration, this project was managed by Healthy Waterways with the Reef Urban Stormwater Management Improvement Group (RUSMIG), which represents key urban stakeholders in the Great Barrier Reef catchment. o provide guidance throughout this process.

The project aimed to build the willingness and capacity of councils, natural resource management groups and industry to apply smart, integrated approaches to managing water.

As part of this project, the Water by Design Program of Healthy Waterways delivered a range of collaborative and interdisciplinary products and services, including workshops, guidance and training. The urban water management plan was intended to increase knowledge about the impact of urban areas on the Reef and management approaches.

This collaborative project was also supported by funding through the Australian Government's Reef Programme.

How was the Wet Tropics’ WQIP being done?

The Wet Tropics’ Water Quality Improvement Plan was developed through a two stage process.

The initial planning phase involved collating the relevant science and information available.

The second phase involved engagement with key stakeholders. The intention of this phase was to inform stakeholders of both the science and the process undertaken to gather this information and to seek input from these stakeholders on identified and agreed actions.

For more information:

For further information about the Wet Tropics Water Quality Improvement Plan, contact Michael Nash at michael.nash@terrain.org.au or phone 07 4095 7101.