Reef Water Quality Report Card 2019 Shows Progress

Farmers are making encouraging progress towards Australia’s Reef 2050 water quality targets according to the recently released Reef Water Quality Report Card 2019, with some stand-out highlights from the Wet Tropics.

The Report Card helps track progress towards the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan and includes information on the uptake of agricultural best management practice, catchment indicator load and water quality targets, as well as inshore marine and wetland condition objectives.

reef water quality report card 2019

The latest report shows that progress is being made across the whole Great Barrier Reef in reducing the runoff of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) with an overall annual reduction of 4.3%.

There was good news for the Wet Tropics - we were one of the highest achievers with a 7.4% DIN reduction.

The Herbert catchment was the best performing catchment with a DIN reduction of 9.4%.


The Wet Tropics sugarcane industry performed well – achieving one of the largest increases in best management practice uptake with an annual increase of 6.1%.

The DIN load leaving catchments showed a cumulative reduction of 25.3 % up to June 2019. Modelling calculated an average annual reduction of 7.4% (approximately 173 tonnes).

Some of the highlights for sugarcane were:

Nutrients & Soil:

  • Good increases in sugarcane land managed under best practice for soil management, mostly due to fallow management.
    • Daintree +17.7%
    • Mossman +15.5%
  • Tully catchment - +16% for area managed under best practice for nutrients.
  • Mossman catchment - +15.5% for soil management.
  • Murray catchment - +13.7% for area managed under best practice for nutrients, +11.9% for soil management.


  • Good increases in land managed under best practice for pesticides, mostly due to avoiding residual pesticides and using banded spraying.
    • Mossman +22%
    • Daintree +13.2%
    • Tully +7.8%
    • Johnstone +5.3%.


On average, 65.4% of banana production land in the Wet Tropics was managed using best practice systems.

  • 77.9% (10,816 hectares) for nutrients
  • 62.3% (8,642 hectares) for pesticides
  • 56.2% (7,799 hectares) for soil

For more detailed information on the results in the Reef Water Quality Report Card 2019 go to the Reef Plan website.


Government funded Great Barrier Reef Programs have been delivered across the Wet Tropics region since Reef Rescue in 2008. There continue to be numerous water quality and waterway health programs that are contributing to the latest results including:

SmartCane BMP Queensland Government All
Reef Enhanced Extension Program Queensland Government All
Reef Trust III: Growing a Great Barrier Reef Australian Government All
Reef Trust IV Repeated Tenders Australian Government Cairns, Johnstone, Tully, Murray & Herbert
Reef Trust IV: Upper Herbert Gully & Grazing Program Australian Government Herbert
Reef Compliance Program Queensland Government All
Cane to Creek Queensland Government Mossman, Russell-Mulgrave, Johnstone, Murray & Herbert
Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project Queensland Government Johnstone, Tully
Upper Johnstone Integrated Project Queensland Government Johnstone


The Reef Water Quality Report Card is part of a system of report cards that are reporting on progress being made towards the targets, objectives and long-term outcomes in the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan.

They provide information to the community on the success of reef initiatives and help identify where future actions need to be directed to improve water quality.

While the Reef Water Quality Report Card evaluates and reports on ‘progress’ towards targets, the Wet Tropics Waterway Health Report Card outlines the 'condition' of freshwater, estuarine, inshore and offshore marine ecosystems in the region.

GBR report cards

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