REEF WATER QUALITY UPDATE
WET TROPICS MAKING GOOD PROGRESS TOWARDS REEF WATER QUALITY TARGETS
26 APRIL 2022
Wet Tropics farmers are being congratulated for reducing nutrient, pesticide and sediment run-off, following the recent release of the Reef Water Quality Report Card 2020.
The Wet Tropics region achieved the biggest reduction in dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) across Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef catchments for the reporting period of July 2019 – June 2020. The Johnstone River Catchment was a standout, recording a 6.4% reduction in DIN. Very good progress is also being made in the Mossman, Tully and Murray River catchments.
Fiona Barron, the Wet Tropics Paddock to Reef Coordinator, said farmers had been working hard for over 10 years to change farm practices and reduce the runoff of nutrients, pesticides and sediment.
“As a region we are a hotspot for dissolved inorganic nitrogen because of our high rainfall, short sharp rivers and intensive agriculture along the coastal plain,’’ she said. “It’s really encouraging to see that we are making good progress on reducing DIN. We’re now halfway towards our target of a 60% reduction by 2025.
“These results reflect the hard work being undertaken by the agricultural industry including through some big projects like SmartCane BMP, Reef Trust Repeat Tenders, the Wet Tropics Sugar Industry Partnership (WTSIP), the Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project (MIP) and the Upper Johnstone Integrated Project. And, of course, there is lots more work happening beyond the reporting period that the Reef Water Quality Report Card 2020 covers, which will continue to bring even greater improvements.”
Ms Barron said farmers were adopting a range of different practices that were helping to improve both productivity and water quality. They include matching fertiliser inputs more closely to crop requirements, improving soil health, cover cropping and minimal tillage, and trialling innovative treatment systems such as bioreactors and constructed wetlands.
She said the scale and complexity of the task involved in improving water quality meant there was a time lag between on-ground action and quantifiable results.
“Improving Reef water quality isn’t an overnight fix. We began delivering Reef water quality programs in 2008, which really isn’t that long ago considering what is involved. There is obviously more work to be done but it’s good to see some reward for effort.
“We all have a responsibility to help reach these environmental targets. It’s not just up to agriculture but the entire community, from industry in the region to urban areas,” said Ms Barron.
The Reef Water Quality report cards report progress towards the targets and objectives of the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan, which is nested within the Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability Plan – Australia’s overarching framework for protecting the Great Barrier Reef until 2050. The report card reports the achieved reductions in nutrient and sediment loads, and pesticide risk, entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon as a result of investments in on-ground actions.
The results presented in the Reef Water Quality report cards are produced by the Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program (Paddock to Reef Program), which estimates reductions in terrestrial pollutant run-off discharging to the Reef and links on-ground practice changes with water quality outcomes.
Growers wanting to learn more about the science behind the Paddock to Reef Program and the Reef Water Quality Report Card 2020 are invited to a water quality science forum on Thursday 12 May in Innisfail. The forum will focus on the Johnstone, Tully and Murray catchments. RSVP details here.
Explore the Reef Water Quality Report Card 2020 results in full.