We are improving water quality flowing to the Great Barrier Reef. This will build its resilience in the face of other threats including climate change, natural disasters and impacts from direct use.
We invest in programs to address water quality issues. The Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan guides our work. Our investments are underpinned by the latest science. We also monitor and measure our progress towards water quality targets.
Poor water quality impacts
Poor water quality impacts the health of the Reef. It also affects the Reef's ability to resist and recover from other stressors.
Nutrient and sediment run-off from the land within the Reef catchment contributes to poor water quality.
Sediment can smother coral and restrict the growth of light-dependent plants, such as seagrass. Increased nutrients can create algal blooms, which are harmful to the Reef ecosystem.
We invest in programs that are reducing nutrient and sediment run-off into inshore Reef habitats. We also invest in programs to monitor water quality and progress towards our Reef water quality targets.
Read more about some of these programs below or read the full list of Reef Trust water quality projects.
This Program is focused on remediating gully and streambank erosion in priority areas. This aims to significantly reduce the amount of sediment entering the Reef.
Sediment run-off is one of the biggest pressures on the Reef. Gully and streambank erosion contributes significantly to sediment entering the reef.
The investment program supports farmers to reduce run-off impacts from their properties. The program focuses on the adoption of more efficient farming practices. This includes the adoption of specific best management practices (BMP).
BMP investments support better, targeted nutrient management. Other BMP actions, such as irrigation channel modifications and planting layout or spacing modifications, help reduce soil erosion over time.
The program includes landscapes repair for eroding gullies and streambanks. This reduces sediment pollution flowing into the Reef, while improving land productivity.
Water pollution from urban and public lands is also addressed by the program.
The Partnerships support on-ground projects that address poor water quality remediation. This provides co-benefits for coastal ecosystems and species protection.
The projects are delivered through targeted procurement with National Resource Management groups across the Reef catchment area.
The projects involve working with farmers to boost biodiversity and reduce sediment erosion. The projects do this through:
- Management practice change
- Wetlands creation
- Beach clean-up events
- Habitat revegetation.
The projects also include engagement with Traditional Owner groups.
The Reef Trust Repeat Tenders engaged farmers to reduce pollutant run off by improving fertiliser application and related farm management practices.
The Program was highly effective and popular with canegrowers. It provided flexibility by allowing farmers to determine their own nitrogen use efficiency targets and cost-effective means of achieving those targets.
Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan
The plan guides how we work with industry and community to improve the quality of water flowing into the Reef. The plan identifies objectives and targets for all land-based pollution. It is based on scientific knowledge and understanding of water quality issues in the Reef, as set out in the Scientific Consensus Statement.
We released the plan jointly with Queensland government. The plan is reviewed every 5 years and is currently under review.
Read the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan.
Scientific Consensus Statement
The Scientific Consensus Statement informs the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan. It brings together the latest peer reviewed scientific evidence on the impact that land activities can have on Reef water quality and ecosystem condition.
The Scientific Consensus Statement is updated every 5 years to ensure water quality initiatives and policies are based on the best available scientific evidence.
The updated Scientific Consensus Statement is scheduled to be completed in late 2023.
Read the 2017 Scientific Consensus Statement.
To date, working with our partners has produced results, reducing pressures on the Reef. Regular monitoring will inform decisions for long-term solutions across the Reef.
The report cards measure progress towards the Reef targets and objectives. The report cards show the success of actions and inform further measures.
Science underpins the report cards. All results are reviewed by the Independent Science Panel.
The Outlook Report is released every 5 years by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. It provides an evidence-based overview that examines the Great Barrier Reef's health, pressures, and likely future. This report influences government policy and informs reviews to the Reef 2050 Plan.
The next Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report is due in mid-2024.
Read the Outlook Report 2019.
The Queensland government manage the Paddock to Reef Program (P2R). It is a framework for measuring progress towards meeting Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan targets.
The program is jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland governments and evaluates the adoption of land management practices and the effectiveness of these. It also assesses pollutant run-off as well as catchment and in-shore marine condition.
P2R also provides information and tools to prioritise investments. Investments activities are targeted, efficient and informed by the best expert advice.
Learn more about P2R