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Innovation needed to meet water quality targets.

Scientists, environmental managers and community groups heard from experts on the latest technologies and methods being used to address the challenges affecting our waterways and reefs, at the biennial waterway health forum. Hosted by Wet Tropics Waterways, this year’s forum covered a range of innovations in remote sensing, Geographic Information Systems and artificial intelligence, citizen science, water quality monitoring and environmental restoration.

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If we are going to meet our Reef 2050 water quality targets we need to innovate and there is a lot of evidence of this happening around the region.

Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, Warren Entsch, commended Wet Tropics Waterways for providing a platform for waterway health scientists and practitioners to share the latest knowledge and approaches to improving waterway health.

“It is great to see the variety of research institutions, agencies and industries taking part in these discussions to tackle waterway health issues,” he said.

Guest speakers included Dr. Michael Rasheed on innovative methods to restore lost seagrass meadows and Gavin Singleton on the use of underwater drones for monitoring. Dr Patrick Robson from Federation University discussed the potential of the citizen science movement and how it is improving not only water quality but connections between community and government.

Dr Barbara Robson from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) present on monitoring water quality from space. She has been using data from satellites in space to measure the light reaching corals and seagrasses, which is then correlated to the health of the reef.

Professor Steve Turton, Chair of Wet Tropics Waterways said it has the potential to be developed as a new water quality metric for the annual Wet Tropics Waterway Health Report Card.

“Now in its seventh year, the Report Card gives us a picture of how healthy our waterways are. New metrics like this help build our understanding of how healthy our reef ecosystems are and what progress we’re making to improve them.”

Professor Turton said while there is a wide range of programs happening around the region to improve water quality flowing to the reef, modelling showed that the Wet Tropics would not be able to meet its reef targets using current solutions.

“If we are going to meet our Reef 2050 water quality targets we need to innovate and there is a lot of evidence of this happening around the region, whether it’s farmers trialling new farm practices, scientists developing new technologies or project teams trialling nature-based solutions like denitrification bioreactors and vegetated drains,” he said.

“Innovation and technology are very much a part of the tool kit for helping us improve waterway health and the Making Waves Forum was designed as a networking opportunity to share ideas and hopefully spark some new ones.”

The Making Waves Forum was sponsored by Ports North, CleanCo Queensland, RPS Group, Canegrowers and CQUniversity.

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