Water Quality in the Wet Tropics

The Wet Tropics is a key focus in the efforts to reduce contaminants running off the land into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.


  • While the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce identified climate change as the biggest long term threat to the Reef, other stressors such poor water quality is also a risk.

As a community we can help build the Reef's resilience against the affects of climate change by removing other stressors such as contaminants.

In recent years much of the effort to improve water quality has been targeted towards working with farmers to reduce nitrogen, pesticides and sediment runoff into the Reef lagoon and, while some progress has been made, it is not enough to meet the ambitious water quality targets set by the Queensland Government.

These include reducing nitrogen by up to 80% and sediment by up to 50% by 2025 in key catchments including the Wet Tropics.

In the Wet Tropics the focus is on reducing nitrogen (fertiliser) and pesticides. There are several factors that cause a risk to water quality from the Wet Tropics region:

  • Intense periods of rainfall
  • Short sharp river catchments
  • Close proximity to the GBR
  • Intensive horticultural industries along the coastline

What has been done so far?

WQIP cover

Many community groups and organisations are already engaged in activities to improve the quality of water flowing off the land into the Reef.

These are guided by the Wet Tropics Water Quality Improvement Plan.

In 2015 Terrain NRM (one of the Partnership's members) released the new Wet Tropics Water Quality Improvement Plan (2015-2020) after extensive consultation with stakeholders in the region.

The aim of this plan is to better manage our waterways to deal with expanding agriculture and urban development.

Regional Water Quality Improvement Plans (WQIPs) are a part of the Queensland and Australian Government’s Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan. Their purpose is to bring together the latest science, and identify targeted approaches to tackling water quality issues at a regional level.

The Wet Tropics Pilot Report Card complements the Water Quality Improvement Plan by providing scientific information to determine whether current strategies to improve waterway health are working and what can be done to improve them.

For more information on the Wet Tropics Water Quality Improvement Plan go to the Wet Tropics Plan for People and Country website

Photo credit: Paul Curtis, NQ Wildscapes