Barron Basin

The Barron Basin has an area of 2,189 km2 with Mareeba (population 10,181) and Atherton (population 7,287) as the main urban centres. Both of these towns are located on the Tablelands above the Barron Falls. Below the Barron Falls the Barron River flows across the narrow coastal plain though several suburbs in the northern Cairns area. The basin has a large upper catchment on the Tablelands with numerous waterways from sub-catchments flowing into the Barron River.

The Tablelands is an important agricultural area with a major dam situated at Tinaroo Falls resulting in the impounded waters of Lake Tinaroo, a major water supply for agriculture. The Barron River flows north to the Barron Falls at Kuranda, which is within the Wet Tropic’s World Heritage Area. Freshwater Creek which is impounded by Lake Morris in its upper catchment flows into the Barron River below the Barron falls, and the river discharges into coastal waters north of Cairns. The Barron Basin includes 14 National Parks and two wetlands listed in the Directory of (Nationally) Important Wetlands (Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine). The Barron River is an important story place for Aboriginal custodians.

The basin consists of 29% natural/minimal use lands, 31% grazing, 18% forestry, 8% other crops (including bananas), 3% sugarcane, 3% dairy, 5% urban and 4% other land uses. The Barron River is the most modified river in the Wet Tropics region and is heavily regulated by water resource infrastructure.

The overall grade for the Barron basin is moderate (C). Water quality and habitat and hydrology contributed to this grade.

Scroll down for further detailed results for each indicator group.




very good








very poor


insufficient data


not applicable

Confidence surrounding the data used in the circle diagrams has been assessed using a multi-criteria framework.


Water quality

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The overall water quality grade in 2014/15 for the Barron basin is ‘moderate’.

Water quality grades are based on aquatic ecosystem guidelines for protection of freshwater systems, and are not based on load reduction targets for the marine environment. The results are derived from the end of catchment monitoring site at Myola, capturing 89 per cent of the basin.

The sediment score is comprised of a total suspended solids (TSS) score of 97.28 (moderate) indicating that the annual medians of TSS did not comply with guideline values.

Nutrients scored 98.95 (moderate) in the Barron Basin, comprising of a DIN (dissolved inorganic nitrogen) score of 98.95 (moderate) and FRP (Filterable Reactive Phosphorus) score of 98.95 (moderate).

Contaminants are not monitored in the Barron basin therefore a score and grade cannot be provided.

Habitat and hydrology

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The overall habitat and hydrology grade for the Barron basin in 2014/15 is ‘poor’.

The habitat modification score of 58.8 (poor) is comprised of an impoundment length score of 58.8 (poor) with 7.7 per cent of the total length of the waterways with a stream order of 3 or higher impounded by artificial structures. Tinaroo Dam is the largest impoundment in the basin. The fish barrier indicator method is still being developed and will be available in future report cards.

Riparian extent for the Barron basin scored 100 (good) with 11.1 per cent loss from pre-clear extent to 2013.It is expected that the majority of loss is due to development and land use.

Wetland extent scored 14.2 (very poor) with 72.2 per cent loss of palustrine (freshwater) wetlands from pre-clear to 2013. These results reflect a high level of historic loss due to development. Wetland losses in future reporting periods will be minimal.

Freshwater riparian extent and wetland extent are updated every four years and the figures in the pilot report card are the most current. The data for both are due to be updated in 2017/18.

The methods for the flow and invasive weeds indicators are currently under development and will be available for future report cards.


Hover over each segment for indicator scores and data confidence.

The fish index is currently under development and will be available in future report cards.

Further information on the methods used to produce the scores and grades and detailed results can be found here.