Improving water quality
There are a number of programs underway that are helping to make changes to the way farms are managed throughout the catchments adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef.
These initiatives are helping to reduce run-off from agricultural land into waterways that flow out into the marine environment.
The benefits of reducing run-off are wide and varied. These include increased agricultural productivity and efficiency, improved wetland health including more native fish, better drinking water and a healthier reef.
Improving the quality of water run-off will also reduce the stress on the reef's delicate ecosystem, and give it a better chance of withstanding and recovering from other events such as coral bleaching and damage from intense storms.
The Reef Plan, also known as the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, is jointly funded by Australian and Queensland Governments.
Its long term goal is to ensure that by 2020 the quality of water entering the reef from adjacent catchments has no detrimental effect on the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.
To meet this goal, the Reef Plan is working to reduce the amount of sediment, nutrients and pesticides entering marine waters. It applies to all the land that drains to the reef between Cape York and Hervey Bay.
More specifically, it has these objectives:
By 2013 there will be a:
- 50 per cent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorous loads
- 50 per cent reduction in pesticides at the end of catchments
By 2020 there will be a:
- 20 per cent reduction in sediment load at the end of catchments
Adoption of new practices
- 80 per cent of landholders in agricultural enterprises (sugarcane, horticulture, dairy, cotton and grains) will have adopted improved soil, nutrient and chemical management practices.
- 50 per cent of graziers will have adopted improved pasture and riparian management practices.
By 2013 there will be:
- at least 50 per cent late dry season groundcover on dry tropical grazing land
- there will have been no net loss or degradation of natural wetlands
- the condition and extent of riparian areas will have improved.
Reef Plan is worth $375 million over five years and is being put into action by the Australian Government's Reef Rescue and Queensland Government's Reef Protection Package. The impact of these is being determined by a program called Paddock to Reef.
Learn more about Reef Plan on the Queensland Government website but don't forget to come back for more local information.
Reef Rescue is part of the Australian Government’s $2.2 billion Caring for our Country initiative.
It gives farmers financial incentives to improve the quality of water leaving agricultural lands and entering the Great Barrier Reef.
NQ Dry Tropics makes funding available under the program to horticulture and sugarcane farmers from Bowen to Crystal Creek, and graziers in some parts of the region. Funding is also available to grains producers in the Suttor. Click here to find out what grants are available.
Within our region $6-8 million a year is available to assist farmers and graziers. Fifty per cent of the total cost for on-ground improvements is available to individual producers.
In this region, more than 200 land managers across the sugar, horticulture, grazing and grain sectors are using Reef Rescue funding to improve their practices.
Reef Protection Package
The Reef Protection Package is a series of regulations set out by the Queensland Government through the Great Barrier Reef Protection Amendment Act 2009. The package aims specifically to reduce the loss of pesticides, nutrients and sediment from agricultural land.
All farmers are subject to guidelines about fertiliser and pesticide use, while some producers and graziers are required to do Environmental Risk Management Plans. See www.reefwisefarming.qld.gov.au for more information.
Other state laws govern the pollution load from mining, and urban waste.
Paddock to Reef
Is the Reef Plan succeeding in what it set out to achieve?
This question is being answered by a program called Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring Modelling and Reporting.
Click here for details on this program and how it operates in the Burdekin region.
The Delbessie Agreement is an arrangement for leasing land in Queensland. One of its aims is to reduce sediment loss from grazing lands by offering longer term leases to those who meet environmental benchmarks.
Read more on what the agreement entails.
Burdekin Water Quality Improvement Plan
The Burdekin Water Quality Improvement Plan is a comprehensive book for landholders and stakeholders which is helping to identify priorities for the implementation of Reef Rescue.
It looks at the current condition of the region's 48 sub-catchments and the best management practices for grazing and sugar lands within these.
For more information about water quality in our region see Burdekin Water Quality Improvement Plan