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Water quality

With nine short sharp rivers flowing into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon, contaminants from land based activities including agriculture and urban development are key issues for water quality in the region. 

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The Wet Tropics is a hotspot for nutrients and pesticides due to intensive agriculture along the coastal plain

The Wet Tropics is one of the six bioregions adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef where poor water quality runoff from land-based activities is one of the key issues affecting the health of the reef.

In recent years much of the effort to improve water quality has been targeted towards supporting farmers to reduce nitrogen, pesticides and sediment runoff. While progress is being made, it is not happening fast enough to meet the ambitious water quality targets set by the Government.

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

The Wet Tropics is a hotspot for nitrogen (fertiliser) and pesticides due to the following:

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

What has been done so far?

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 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.

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