Russell Basin

The Russell basin has a population of approximately 1,700 people, largely in Babinda and Miriwinni.

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 and Babinda Creek are the two key tributaries of the Russell basin.

The upper catchment is in the relatively undisturbed rainforest environments of the Bellenden Ker Range.

The river floodplains and the lower river valley are dominated by sugarcane where the environment has been significantly modified with the loss of much of the original lowland rainforest.

The diagram below shows the detailed results for each indicator by year. Click on the timeslider to see data from previous years.

Water quality

Water quality in the Russell basin remained ‘good’ with the score decreasing slightly from 73 in 2015-16 to 70 in 2016-17.

The dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) indicator scored the lowest (44) and was graded ‘moderate’, with monthly median concentrations often not meeting guideline values.

Filterable reactive phosphorus (FRP) scored 90 and was ‘very good’, with most monthly median concentrations meeting guideline values. TSS (the indicator for sediment) scored 77 and was ‘good’, with monthly median concentrations often meeting guideline values.

Using the ms-PAF method, pesticides received a low risk category with 96.3 % of species protected in the waterways of the Russell basin. This resulted in a pesticide grade of ‘good’ for the basin.

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% of the basin.

Habitat and hydrology

The habitat and hydrology index is comprised of four longer-term indicator categories that are updated every four years: wetland extent, riparian extent (both to be updated for 2017-18), invasive weeds (to be updated for 2019-20), habitat modification (impoundment length (to be updated for 2018-19) and fish barrier indicators (in development)). The flow indicator for the Russell basin (reported annually) was introduced in 2016-17.

Changes in the habitat and hydrology index scores over the last three years are the result of the addition of indicators rather than changes in the indicator scores themselves.

The habitat and hydrology index remained ‘good’ in 2016-17 with the score increasing from 63 to 70 due to the addition of the flow indicator.

The habitat modification score of 100 (‘very good’) is comprised of an impoundment length score of 100 (‘very good’) indicating that less than 1% 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 79 (‘good’) with 5.7% 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 35 (‘poor’) with 35.9% 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.

The invasive weeds indicator scored 52 (‘moderate’) in the Russell basin and represents some impacts of aquatic weeds within the Russell freshwater system including hymenachne (Hymenachne amplexicaulis), salvinia (Salvinia molesta), and pond apple (Annona glabra).

The Russell basin was graded as ‘very good’ for flows during 2016-17. Flows in the Russell basin were similar to predevelopment flows in their capacity to support the key ecological assets of water holes, low flow spawning fish, riffle habitats and fisheries production.

The flow indicator provides scores for each flow assessment site and this can be used to assess flows at more local scales. More information on the results of the flow indicator is available in the results technical report.


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.