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Water quality report card coverage

Key finding

Water quality report cards have been prepared for many of Queensland’s coastal catchments and for parts of the Murray-Darling Basin. Depending on location, these report cards include condition of habitat, water quality and other ecosystem features at different spatial and time scales. In other areas, where report cards have not been prepared, there are varying scales of monitoring within the catchments.

Queensland

A number of different water quality monitoring programs and activities are conducted throughout many of Queensland's rivers, creeks and coastal areas.

Water quality report cards document the state of water quality in freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystems in Queensland. The use of both monitoring and modelling applications allows wide-scale coverage of the state of water quality in Queensland waterways. Reporting water quality occurs at different timescales, from annual report cards in coastal areas to less frequent reporting in more remote regions.

The regional report card partnerships either conduct water quality monitoring or draw on data available from existing programs to produce catchment health report cards. These report cards provide water quality information for freshwater, estuarine and marine areas of the Great Barrier Reef catchments and south east Queensland catchments. In developed areas, land use activity in the catchment is more intense and has impacted water quality and waterway health.

Water quality report cards are not currently available for the Gulf of Carpentaria catchments, some coastal catchments and parts of the Murray–Darling Basin. The QCatchments program plans to undertake assessments of some of these areas in future years.

Healthy Land and Water South East Queensland report card

The South East Queensland region extends from the Noosa River catchment in the north to the New South Wales border in the south and west to the Great Dividing Range.

The Healthy Land and Water South East Queensland report card covers the 18 major river catchments as well as the marine areas of Pumicestone Passage, Moreton Bay and the Broadwater.

The report card is an annual commentary of the state of estuarine, marine, and since 2002, freshwater health with waterway monitoring from about 400 sites across the region.

The 2017 report card used the methodology from 2015 to calculate environmental grades as well as the impact from sediment entering waterways, the extent of habitats such as riparian vegetation, and waterways’ social and economic benefits ratings. It also explored management actions needed to improve waterways health. Each catchment was graded although no overall grade was assigned for Moreton Bay’s ecosystem health.

In 2017, none of the waterways ‘failed’ the environmental condition grade:

  • Noosa catchment was graded ‘excellent’.
  • Some catchments, for example in western rural areas were ‘poor’.

More information:

    Great Barrier Reef report card

    The Great Barrier Reef extends 2,300km from the tip of Cape York to the Burnett Mary region. The Great Barrier Reef Report cards are released jointly by the Queensland and Australian governments to report progress towards meeting pollutant reduction targets for sediment, nutrients and pesticides, land management practice targets and catchment indicator targets. The report cards also report scores for the inshore marine condition and wetland condition.

    Results show progress in some areas; however faster uptake of improved land management practices is required to meet the water quality targets.

    The most recent report card (2016) demonstrates the progress towards the Reef water quality targets:

    • 20.9% towards a 50% reduction target for dissolved inorganic nitrogen
    • 13.9% towards a 20% reduction target for sediment
    • 36% towards a 60% reduction target for pesticides.

    Overall, the inshore water quality has improved in the Wet Tropics and Burdekin to good, and in the Fitzroy to moderate. In the Mackay Whitsunday region, water quality remained at moderate in the last two years (2015–2016). In 2016, water quality was reported as good for the inshore marine region of the Burnett Mary, which was the first year of reporting. Water quality at mid and outer shelf sites is generally good to very good overall because it is less directly influenced by river discharge.

    More information:

      Fitzroy Basin report card

      The Fitzroy River has the largest catchment of any river system on the east coast of Australia and feeds down to the significant estuarine environments in the Greater Fitzroy Delta. There are large areas of mining and agriculture in the catchment.

      The Fitzroy Basin Association, a regional natural resource management body, hosts the Fitzroy Partnership for River Health, producing an annual report card since 2010-2011.

      The Fitzroy Partnership for River Health report card reports on sub-catchment and estuarine condition for the Fitzroy River Basin, based on monitoring of biological and ecological indicators from more than 220 sites. Provision of clean drinking water is a specific focus of monitoring and reporting in this region.

      One notable long-term trend emerging from the report cards is the influence of weather and climate conditions: wetter years typically result in lower ecosystem health scores. In 2015-16, rainfall was the lowest experienced in 6 years of reporting.

      More information:

      Gladstone Harbour report card

      Gladstone Harbour includes one of Queensland's busiest ports and the world’s third largest coal exporting terminal. Gladstone Harbour is also a significant recreational asset for the local community. Land use around Gladstone Harbour includes urban areas, industry, grazing and conservation areas. Gladstone Harbour is unique in being a working port, adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, supporting a range of marine plants and animals as well as an important fishing industry.

      The Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership report card is produced by the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership. The 2016 report card, released in February 2017, reported on 95 measures across 4 components of harbour health: environmental, social, cultural and economic.

      More information:

      Mackay-Whitsunday report card

      The Mackay-Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership, a collaborative initiative involving government, industry, conservation and community groups, produces an annual report card that covers 5 river basins: Don, O’Connell, Proserpine, Plane and Pioneer. The report card draws on water quality monitoring in freshwater, estuarine, near-shore and offshore marine environments.

      After releasing a pilot report card in October 2015, full report cards were released in October 2016 and October 2017, reporting across environmental, economic, social, stewardship and cultural heritage components.

      Cyclone Debbie severely impacted the region in March 2017; the impact of this to water quality will be captured in the next report card.

      More information:

      Wet Tropics report card

      The Wet Tropics region supports a population of more than 250,000 across many coastal and inland urban centres. It is unique in having two World Heritage Areas side-by-side – the Wet Tropics and the Great Barrier Reef. The region’s terrestrial and aquatic environments are diverse and highly valuable, with the Wet Tropics rainforests recognised internationally as the oldest continuously surviving tropical rainforests on earth.

      The Wet Tropics report card covers the region from Bloomfield in the north to the Herbert River in the south, and Atherton Tablelands. The area includes 9 river catchments: Daintree, Mossman, Barron, Russell, Mulgrave, Johnstone, Tully, Murray and the Herbert.

      Tourism and agriculture, particularly sugarcane and banana production, play key roles in the region. Cairns’ port is used for commodity import and export as well as cruise shipping.

      The Wet Tropics is a focus area of significant government investment to improve water quality by working with farmers and graziers to reduce runoff. The Wet Tropics Report Card is produced by the Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways Partnership. A pilot report card was released in December 2016 and the first full report card in December 2017, providing detailed information on the health of the Wet Tropics waterways, including its major rivers, estuaries, inshore and offshore reefs.

      More information:

      Condamine Catchment report card

      The Condamine catchment is located at the headwaters of the Murray–Darling Basin in southern Queensland. It covers 2.5 million hectares from Queen Mary Falls near Killarney in the Border Ranges through to Chinchilla on the north-western edge of the Darling Downs.

      The Condamine Catchment Report Card 2013 was prepared by the Condamine Alliance, a regional natural resource management body, as a one-off report card to support the development of a water quality improvement plan for the catchment. Supported by technical reports, the report card aims to raise awareness in the region, engage current and potential stakeholders and improve knowledge by summarising robust and detailed scientific studies in an easy-to-understand format.

      More information:

      QCatchment Bulloo

      The Bulloo catchment is located in arid inland south-west Queensland. It is terminal system (no outflow to other rivers or the sea), flowing into several lake systems near the border of New South Wales and Queensland.

      QCatchments is a state-wide rolling waterway condition assessment program producing ‘one-off’ condition reports with a return interval of about9 years.

      The QCatchments report for the Bulloo catchment was prepared in 2012 by the Queensland Government. The QCatchments program can be scaled up or down from province to catchment level, depending on information needs. The program:

      • Identifies priority threats to aquatic ecosystems
      • reports on the condition of the ecosystem
      • improves understanding of ecosystem processes and the influence of threats
      • guides natural resource decision-making processes.

      More information:

      QCatchment Paroo

      The Paroo catchment is located in inland south-west Queensland. It is the last of the northern Murray–Darling Basin’s free-flowing, unregulated rivers, connecting to the Darling River only in unusually wet years. The Paroo is an ephemeral system (dry much of the year but flows for a short time after rainfall) that flows from Queensland into New South Wales.

      QCatchments is a state-wide rolling waterway condition assessment program producing ‘one-off’ condition reports with a return interval of about 9 years.

      The QCatchments report for the Paroo catchment was prepared in 2012 by the Queensland Government. The QCatchments program can be scaled up or down from province to catchment level, depending on information needs. The program:

      • identifies priority threats to aquatic ecosystems
      • reports on the condition of the ecosystem
      • improves understanding of ecosystem processes and the influence of threats
      • guides natural resource decision-making processes.

      More information:

      QCatchment Warrego

      The Warrego catchment is located in inland south-west Queensland and is part of the Murray–Darling Basin. Several upper tributaries separate into anabranches (multiple river channels) north of the New South Wales border before the main Warrego River channel flows into the Darling River. The anabranches can connect to neighbouring catchments (Paroo and Culgoa rivers) during times of high flow which occur only after unpredictable heavy rainfall events.

      QCatchments is a state-wide rolling waterway condition assessment program producing ‘one-off’ condition reports with a return interval of about 9 years.

      The QCatchments report for the Warrego catchment was prepared in 2012 by the Queensland Government. The QCatchments program can be scaled up or down from province to catchment level, depending on information needs. The program:

      • identifies priority threats to aquatic ecosystems
      • reports on the condition of the ecosystem
      • improves understanding of ecosystem processes and the influence of threats
      • guides natural resource decision-making processes.

      More information:

      QCatchment Nebine

      The Nebine catchment is located in semi-arid south-west Queensland. It is part of the Queensland Murray–Darling Basin and incorporates the catchments of Nebine, Mungallala and Wallam creeks.

      QCatchments is a state-wide rolling waterway condition assessment program producing ‘one-off’ condition reports with a return interval of about 9 years.

      The QCatchments report for the Nebine catchment was prepared in 2012 by the Queensland Government. The QCatchments program can be scaled up or down from province to catchment level, depending on information needs. The program:

      • identifies priority threats to aquatic ecosystems
      • reports on the condition of the ecosystem
      • improves understanding of ecosystem processes and the influence of threats
      • guides natural resource decision-making processes.

      More information:

      QCatchment Lake Eyre

      The Lake Eyre and Bulloo QCatchments report includes the Queensland section of the Lake Eyre Basin which is made up of the Georgina, Diamantina and Cooper Creek catchments, as well as the internally draining Bulloo catchment.

      QCatchments is a state-wide rolling waterway condition assessment program producing ‘one-off’ condition reports with a return interval of about 9 years. The QCatchments report for the Lake Eyre and Bulloo catchments was prepared in 2013 by the Queensland Government.

      The QCatchments program can be scaled up or down from province to catchment level, depending on information needs. The program moves across the state depending on priorities, with assessments generally undertaken to support water planning assessments. The program:

      • identifies priority threats to aquatic ecosystems
      • reports on the condition of the ecosystem
      • improves understanding of ecosystem processes and the influence of threats
      • guides natural resource decision-making processes.

      More information:

      QCatchment Archer

      The Archer catchment is located on the western coast of Queensland’s Cape York. It incorporates several river systems including the main Archer River, the braided channels of Coen River and Kirke Creek. Land use is predominantly conservation and grazing native vegetation.

      QCatchments is a state-wide rolling waterway condition assessment program producing ‘one-off’ condition reports with a return interval of about 9 years.

      The QCatchments report for Cape York, and the Archer catchment summary factsheet was prepared in 2017 by the Queensland Government. The QCatchments program can be scaled up or down from province to catchment level, depending on information needs. The program moves across the state depending on priorities, with assessments generally undertaken to support water planning assessments.

      The program:

      • identifies priority threats to aquatic ecosystems
      • reports on the condition of the ecosystem
      • improves understanding of ecosystem processes and the influence of threats
      • guides natural resource decision-making processes.

      More information:

      QCatchment Coleman

      The Coleman catchment is located on the western coast of Queensland’s Cape York. It incorporates the Coleman and Edward River systems, as well as Bull Lake, which is included in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia and provides vital habitat for migratory birds.

      QCatchments is a state-wide rolling waterway condition assessment program producing ‘one-off’ condition reports with a return interval of about 9 years.

      The QCatchments report for Cape York, and the Coleman catchment summary factsheet was prepared in 2017 by the Queensland Government. The QCatchments program can be scaled up or down from province to catchment level, depending on information needs. The program moves across the state depending on priorities, with assessments generally undertaken to support water planning assessments.

      The program:

      • identifies priority threats to aquatic ecosystems
      • reports on the condition of the ecosystem
      • improves understanding of ecosystem processes and the influence of threats
      • guides natural resource decision-making processes.

      More information:

      QCatchment Ducie

      The Ducie catchment is located on the north-west coast of Queensland’s Cape York. It incorporates the Ducie, McDonald, Skardon, Jackson and Doughboy Rivers and many smaller creeks such as the Palm, North Alice and Cockatoo Creeks. Land use is predominantly conservation.

      QCatchments is a state-wide rolling waterway condition assessment program producing ‘one-off’ condition reports with a return interval of about 9 years.

      The QCatchments report for Cape York, and the Ducie catchment summary factsheet was prepared in 2017 by the Queensland Government. The QCatchments program can be scaled up or down from province to catchment level, depending on information needs. The program moves across the state depending on priorities, with assessments generally undertaken to support water planning assessments.

      The program:

      • identifies priority threats to aquatic ecosystems
      • reports on the condition of the ecosystem
      • improves understanding of ecosystem processes and the influence of threats
      • guides natural resource decision-making processes.

      More information:

      QCatchment Endeavour

      The Endeavour catchment is located on the eastern coast of Queensland’s Cape York. It incorporates several river systems including the Endeavour and Annan Rivers. Land use is predominantly conservation, with cattle grazing and mixed cropping along the Endeavour valley.

      QCatchments is a state-wide rolling waterway condition assessment program producing ‘one-off’ condition reports with a return interval of about 9 years.

      The QCatchments report for Cape York, and the Endeavour catchment summary factsheet was prepared in 2017 by the Queensland Government. The QCatchments program can be scaled up or down from province to catchment level, depending on information needs. The program moves across the state depending on priorities, with assessments generally undertaken to support water planning assessments.

      The program:

      • identifies priority threats to aquatic ecosystems
      • reports on the condition of the ecosystem
      • improves understanding of ecosystem processes and the influence of threats
      • guides natural resource decision-making processes.

      The Eastern Cape York Water Quality Improvement Plan and supporting research reports provide additional information on freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystem values, condition and trends, including where available, information on coral reefs, dugongs, sea grass and water quality.

      More information:

      QCatchment Holroyd

      The Holroyd catchment is located on the western coast of Queensland’s Cape York. It incorporates several river systems including the Holroyd and Kendall Rivers and many smaller creeks. Most (59%) of the wetlands found in the catchment are palustrine (vegetated, non-riverine/non channel systems), with only 19% riverine and 22% estuarine wetlands. Land use is predominantly managed resource protection and grazing native vegetation.

      QCatchments is a state-wide rolling waterway condition assessment program producing ‘one-off’ condition reports with a return interval of about 9 years.

      The QCatchments report for Cape York, and the Holroyd catchment summary factsheet was prepared in 2017 by the Queensland Government. The QCatchments program can be scaled up or down from province to catchment level, depending on information needs. The program moves across the state depending on priorities, with assessments generally undertaken to support water planning assessments.

      The program:

      • identifies priority threats to aquatic ecosystems
      • reports on the condition of the ecosystem
      • improves understanding of ecosystem processes and the influence of threats
      • guides natural resource decision-making processes.

      More information:

      QCatchment Jacky Jacky

      The Jacky Jacky catchment is located on the north-east coast of Queensland’s Cape York. It incorporates several river systems including the Jackey Jackey Creek and the Escape River which flow to the north, and Harmer Creek which drains east into Shelburne Bay. Land use in the catchment is predominantly conservation.

      QCatchments is a state-wide rolling waterway condition assessment program producing ‘one-off’ condition reports with a return interval of about 9 years.

      The QCatchments report for Cape York, and the Jacky Jacky catchment summary factsheet was prepared in 2017 by the Queensland Government. The QCatchments program can be scaled up or down from province to catchment level, depending on information needs. The program moves across the state depending on priorities, with assessments generally undertaken to support water planning assessments.

      The program:

      • identifies priority threats to aquatic ecosystems
      • reports on the condition of the ecosystem
      • improves understanding of ecosystem processes and the influence of threats
      • guides natural resource decision-making processes.

      The Eastern Cape York Water Quality Improvement Plan and supporting research reports provide additional information on freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystem values, condition and trends, including where available, information on coral reefs, dugongs, sea grass and water quality.

      More information:

      QCatchment Jardine

      The Jardine catchment is the northern most catchment on the Australian mainland, at the tip of Queensland’s Cape York. The catchment includes the Jardine River, McHenry River and Eliot Creek, and it flows in a north-westerly direction, into the Torres Strait. Most (83%) of the wetlands in the catchment are palustrine (non-riverine, vegetated wetlands). Land use is predominantly conservation, including Jardine River National Park.

      QCatchments is a state-wide rolling waterway condition assessment program producing ‘one-off’ condition reports with a return interval of about 9 years.

      The QCatchments report for Cape York, and the Jardine catchment summary factsheet was prepared in 2017 by the Queensland Government.  The QCatchments program can be scaled up or down from province to catchment level, depending on information needs. The program moves across the state depending on priorities, with assessments generally undertaken to support water planning assessments.

      The program:

      • identifies priority threats to aquatic ecosystems
      • reports on the condition of the ecosystem
      • improves understanding of ecosystem processes and the influence of threats
      • guides natural resource decision-making processes.

      More information:

      QCatchment Jeannie

      The Jeannie catchment is located on the eastern coast of Queensland’s Cape York. It incorporates several river systems including the Jeannie and Starke Rivers.  Land use is predominantly national park and Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land, including Cape Melville National Park.

      QCatchments is a state-wide rolling waterway condition assessment program producing ‘one-off’ condition reports with a return interval of about 9 years.

      The QCatchments report for Cape York, and the Jeannie catchment summary factsheet was prepared in 2017 by the Queensland Government. The QCatchments program can be scaled up or down from province to catchment level, depending on information needs. The program moves across the state depending on priorities, with assessments generally undertaken to support water planning assessments.

      The program:

      • identifies priority threats to aquatic ecosystems
      • reports on the condition of the ecosystem
      • improves understanding of ecosystem processes and the influence of threats
      • guides natural resource decision-making processes.

      The Eastern Cape York Water Quality Improvement Plan and supporting research reports provide additional information on freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystem values, condition and trends, including where available, information on coral reefs, dugongs, sea grass and water quality.

      More information:

      QCatchment Lockhart

      The Lockhart catchment is located on the eastern coast of Queensland’s Cape York. It incorporates several river systems including the Lockhart and Claudie Rivers which discharge into Lloyd Bay. There are many smaller rivers and creeks in the catchment which flow directly into the Coral Sea.

      QCatchments is a state-wide rolling waterway condition assessment program producing ‘one-off’ condition reports with a return interval of about 9 years.

      The QCatchments report for Cape York, and the Lockhart catchment summary factsheet was prepared in 2017 by the Queensland Government. The QCatchments program can be scaled up or down from province to catchment level, depending on information needs. The program moves across the state depending on priorities, with assessments generally undertaken to support water planning assessments.

      The program:

      • identifies priority threats to aquatic ecosystems
      • reports on the condition of the ecosystem
      • improves understanding of ecosystem processes and the influence of threats
      • guides natural resource decision-making processes.

      The Eastern Cape York Water Quality Improvement Plan and supporting research reports provide additional information on freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystem values, condition and trends, including where available, information on coral reefs, dugongs, sea grass and water quality.

      More information:

      QCatchment Normanby

      The Normanby catchment is located on the eastern coast of Queensland’s Cape York and incorporates the Hann and Normanby sub-catchments.  Land use is largely grazing native vegetation.

      QCatchments is a state-wide rolling waterway condition assessment program producing ‘one-off’ condition reports with a return interval of about 9 years.

      The QCatchments report for Cape York, and the Normanby catchment summary factsheet was prepared in 2017 by the Queensland Government. The QCatchments program can be scaled up or down from province to catchment level, depending on information needs. The program moves across the state depending on priorities, with assessments generally undertaken to support water planning assessments.

      The program:

      • identifies priority threats to aquatic ecosystems
      • reports on the condition of the ecosystem
      • improves understanding of ecosystem processes and the influence of threats
      • guides natural resource decision-making processes.

      The Eastern Cape York Water Quality Improvement Plan and supporting research reports provide additional information on freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystem values, condition and trends, including where available, information on coral reefs, dugongs, sea grass and water quality.

      More information:

      QCatchment Olive-Pascoe

      The Olive-Pascoe catchment is located on the eastern coast of Queensland’s Cape York and incorporates several river systems, including the Olive, Claudie, and Pascoe Rivers.

      QCatchments is a state-wide rolling waterway condition assessment program producing ‘one-off’ condition reports with a return interval of about 9 years.

      The QCatchments report for Cape York, and the Normanby catchment summary factsheet was prepared in 2017 by the Queensland Government. The QCatchments program can be scaled up or down from province to catchment level, depending on information needs. The program moves across the state depending on priorities, with assessments generally undertaken to support water planning assessments

      The program:

      • identifies priority threats to aquatic ecosystems
      • reports on the condition of the ecosystem
      • improves understanding of ecosystem processes and the influence of threats
      • guides natural resource decision-making processes.

      The Eastern Cape York Water Quality Improvement Plan and supporting research reports provide additional information on freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystem values, condition and trends, including where available, information on coral reefs, dugongs, sea grass and water quality.

      More information:

      QCatchment Stewart

      The Stewart catchment is located on the eastern coast of Queensland’s Cape York and incorporates several small river systems including the Rocky, Stewart and Massey Rivers and Breakfast Creek.  Land use is predominantly national park and Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land.

      QCatchments is a state-wide rolling waterway condition assessment program producing ‘one-off’ condition reports with a return interval of about 9 years.

      The QCatchments report for Cape York, and the Stewart catchment summary factsheet was prepared in 2017 by the Queensland Government. The QCatchments program can be scaled up or down from province to catchment level, depending on information needs. The program moves across the state depending on priorities, with assessments generally undertaken to support water planning assessments.

      The program:

      • identifies priority threats to aquatic ecosystems
      • reports on the condition of the ecosystem
      • improves understanding of ecosystem processes and the influence of threats
      • guides natural resource decision-making processes.

      The Eastern Cape York Water Quality Improvement Plan and supporting research reports provide additional information on freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystem values, condition and trends, including where available, information on coral reefs, dugongs, sea grass and water quality.

      More information:

      QCatchment Wenlock

      The Wenlock catchment is on the western coast of Queensland’s Cape York. The catchment includes the Wenlock River, and various smaller creeks, many of which are spring fed. Land use is predominantly grazing native vegetation and conservation.

      QCatchments is a state-wide rolling waterway condition assessment program producing ‘one-off’ condition reports with a return interval of about 9 years.

      The QCatchments report for Cape York, and the Jardine catchment summary factsheet was prepared in 2017 by the Queensland Government.  The QCatchments program can be scaled up or down from province to catchment level, depending on information needs. The program moves across the state depending on priorities, with assessments generally undertaken to support water planning assessments.

      The program:

      • identifies priority threats to aquatic ecosystems
      • reports on the condition of the ecosystem
      • improves understanding of ecosystem processes and the influence of threats
      • guides natural resource decision-making processes.

      More information:

      Indicator: Extent of Queensland covered by water quality report cards

      Extent of Queensland covered by various water quality report cards.

      Last updated 10 May 2019