Russell Basin

The Russell basin has a population of approximately 1,700 people, largely in the towns of Babinda and Miriwinni. Both towns are located inland within the agricultural areas.
The Russell River is among the least variable rivers in terms of annual flows in Australia, and the basin receives the highest rainfall in the region. The Russell River is the single major river in the basin. Larger waterways including the Alice River, Babinda Creek, Frenchman’s Creek, Junction Creek and Harvey creek and the waterways of numerous smaller catchments drain into the Russell River. Several smaller catchments flow directly into the coastal waters.

The upper catchment is in the relatively undisturbed rainforest environments of the Bellenden Ker Range. The Russell River flows down through a narrow area of river floodplains which is bordered to the east by lower coastal ranges. The river floodplains and the lower river valley are predominantly cleared for agricultural development and as such the environment has been significantly modified with the loss of much of the original lowland rainforest. The Russell Basin includes four National Parks and seven wetlands listed in the Directory of (Nationally) Important Wetlands.

The Russell Basin has a high proportion of natural/minimal use lands with agricultural activities dominated by sugarcane with some grazing and dairy.

The overall grade for the Russell 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 Russell 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 East Russell, capturing 78 per cent of the basin.

The sediment score of 100 (very good) is comprised of a total suspended solids (TSS) score of 100 (very good) indicating that the annual mean and more than 80 per cent of the monthly medians of TSS comply with guideline values.

Nutrients scored 93.71 (moderate) in the Russell basin, comprising of a DIN (dissolved inorganic nitrogen) score of 87.42 (moderate) and FRP (filterable reactive phosphorus) score of 100 (good) indicating that the annual mean of FRP complies with guideline values.

Using the ms-PAF method, contaminants received a moderate risk category with 7.27 per cent of species affected in the waterways of the Russell basin. This resulted in a contaminant grade of moderate for the basin.

Habitat and hydrology

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The overall habitat and hydrology grade for the Russell Basin in 2014/15 is ‘moderate’.

The habitat modification score of 100 (very good) is comprised of an impoundment length score of 100 (very good) indicating that less than 1 per cent of the total length of the waterways with a stream order of 3 or higher are impounded by artificial structures. The fish barrier indicator method is still being developed and will be available in future report cards.

Riparian extent for the Russell basin scored 100 (good) with 5.7 per cent loss from pre-clear extent to 2013. It is expected that the majority of loss is in the lowlands due to development and land use.

Wetland extent scored 32.8 (very poor) with 35.9 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.