$25.9m earmarked for a water quality program in the BBB

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) is in the process of appointing a Regional Program Manager to plan and implement the delivery of its $25.9million Bowen Broken Bogie (BBB) Water Quality Program.

NQ Dry Tropics has submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI) to manage GBRF’s regional program. This is an open and competitive process, and if successful, NQ Dry Tropics will build on and continue the efforts of the LDC project.  

The successful applicant will be announced later this year.

The GBRF program aims to reduce 332,000 tonnes of fine sediment from entering Great Barrier Reef  waters each year.

Last year, an initial GBRF grant process identified two projects totalling $6.8million in the BBB. 

NQ Dry Tropics successfully secured $5 million to continue land management and rehabilitation efforts of the LDC project. Read about it here.

The $6.8million is part of the $25.9million allocation.

The BBB Water Quality Program is being funded through the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s partnership with the Australian Government’s Reef Trust. 

The Burdekin River Basin is the highest priority for reducing fine sediment entering the reef under the Reef 2050 Plan. 

Why are funds being directed to the BBB? 

Listed on the World Heritage Register in 1981, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) covers 344,000 square kilometres and is the world’s largest coral reef system. It extends along 2,300km of the Queensland coast and comprises about 3000 reefs. 

The Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan, a joint commitment of the Australian and Queensland governments, commits to improving the water quality entering the reef. To monitor this, pollutant load reduction targets have been established to protect reef health and resilience. 

The Landholders Driving Change (LDC) project, managed by NQ Dry Tropics, is a Major Integrated Project (MIP) funded by the Queensland Government through the Queensland Reef Water Quality Program. 

The project was initiated on a recommendation by the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce, in its May 2016 report, with objectives to improve water quality leaving the Bowen, Broken and Bogie  (BBB) river catchments and to increase landholder stewardship to minimise impacts on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. 

The BBB catchment covers an area of 11,718 square kilometres — about 8.3 per cent of the Burdekin River Basin — but the BBB contributes almost half of the fine sediment exported to the GBR. For this reason, it is a targeted hotspot for sediment and nutrient reduction.

The BBB catchment is divided into seven major subcatchments: Bogie River, Bowen River, Broken River, Glenmore Creek, Little Bowen River, Pelican Creek and Rosella Creek.

The dominant land use is grazing with 92 per cent of the catchment under grazing management.

Work begins at Glen Bowen Station on the second large-scale gully remediated by the Landholders Driving Change project.

The area stabilised and turning green after the first rain on the completed work.

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Figure 1. Total fine sediment reduction by project type and erosion source. Inset shows the proportion of the total project area for each project type.

These estimates have been calculated using two methods: 

1) The pollutant reduction component of the Alluvium/Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) investment tool for hillslope and streambank erosion management projects; 

2) The Reef Trust Gully Toolbox method for gully erosion management projects. The LDC Water Quality Report 2020 (Waterhouse et al., 2020) highlights that a number of assumptions underlay these calculations, therefore these figures should be treated as the best available estimate of sediment reductions to date.

Preventing sediment from reaching the Great Barrier Reef

Each wet season sediment is washed into local waterways and out to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). 

Most sediment is very fine, and can stay suspended for a long time and can travel great distances. Valuable topsoil is lost from production, and increased concentrations on the reef can be harmful to seagrasses and corals. 

Landholders in the BBB have completed 69 on-ground water quality practice changes, and it is estimated that these have contributed a fine sediment reduction of 6,154 tonnes per year from reaching the GBR. 

Of this, approximately half of the sediment savings are attributable to grazing land management changes on hillslopes and streambanks, and the other half as a result of gully remediation treatments across a broad range of scales, as shown in the graphs above. 

The table below also highlights the relatively small area of intervention in the gully management projects compared to the large sediment savings that these can achieve - 60 per cent of the sediment savings over only 4 per cent of the project area.

Table 1. Estimated sediment reductions (tonnes) from projects completed in the LDC Project to date.

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*GLMWW = Grazing Land Management Wire and Water

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*The Exploring New Incentives activity area has provided an opportunity for graziers to adopt improved land management practices through a range of activities. For some of these properties, it was the first time they signed contracts for on-ground works.

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The LDC project monitors four gully sites (represented in this table) with gold standard equipment and analysis, carried out by CSIRO.

Results have been compiled in a preliminary report from Bartley et al (2020), with the final report expected to be released by the end of 2020. The preliminary report shows all four sites have indicators of improvements, notably the Strathbogie and Mt Wickham sites.

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Reef regulations - grazing, standard conditions

  1. For land in good or fair condition (more than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), continue using measures to maintain land condition.
  2. For land in poor condition (less than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition.
  3. For land in degraded condition (less than 20 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition OR prevent areas from further degrading or expanding.
  4. Keep records of measures taken and also of agricultural chemicals, fertiliser and mill mud or mill ash applied to land.
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