Delivering water quality outcomes at federal, state and local levels


The Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan 2017-2022 is a joint commitment of the Australian and Queensland governments. The plan is a collaborative program of coordinated projects and partnerships designed to improve the quality of water flowing to the Great Barrier Reef.

The Australian and Queensland governments have committed more than $2 billion across 10 years to protecting the reef, with an unprecedented level of investment into improving water quality.

This funding is to accelerate our collective efforts to improve the land use practices of everyone living and working in the catchments adjacent to the reef through a diversified set of actions.

Under the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan, water quality targets have been set for each catchment that drains to the Great Barrier Reef.

These targets consider land use and pollutant loads from each catchment. Click here to read the Burdekin catchment water quality targets.


The Queensland Government is rolling out two large scale reef water quality projects that will become blueprints for improving water quality flowing into the Great Barrier Reef.

The Major Integrated Projects (MIPs) initiative has been developed by NQ Dry Tropics in the Burdekin and Terrain NRM in the Wet Tropics with funding of $33 million through the Queensland Reef Water Quality Program.

The Burdekin MIP has been renamed locally the Landholders Driving Change project.


Erosion in Great Barrier Reef catchments didn’t happen overnight and it’s a bigger problem than each landholder can address on their own.  

That’s why there are a number of programs in place bringing scientists and graziers together to come up with solutions.

The LDC project  is one of those programs and is focused on best management practices, along with new ideas and technologies to help reduce sediment run-off.  

LDC is a Burdekin Major Integrated project funded by the Queensland Government through the Queensland Reef Water Quality Program. 

In this Queensland Government video, NQ Dry Tropics CEO Scott Crawford and TropWATER’s JCU scientist Steve Lewis talks about the importance of new approaches, and the broad aim of the LDC project.  TropWATER is one of the LDC’s valued partners.

Soil erosion and sediment and nutrient runoff into waterways is not just a question about impacts on the Great Barrier Reef lagoon, but needs to be seen within the broader context of sustainable beef production, which includes retaining the integrity of the land resource as the main basis for pasture and beef production.

Minimising soil erosion is as much about maintaining future productivity as it is about limiting off-site impacts.

Sustainable grazing of livestock in the Great Barrier Reef catchments relies on production of palatable pasture.

In time, unsustainable grazing practices reduce pasture and ground cover, which increases the risk of valuable topsoil being lost when it rains.

Reduced ground cover also increases overland flow, exacerbating gully and streambank erosion and increasing  sediment and nutrient delivery to waterways draining to the reef lagoon.

The Queensland Government produced this video to help explain how managing erosion in grazing lands can have a better impact on agriculture land and the Great Barrier Reef.

This video, also produced by the Queensland Government, shows how sediment travels to the Great Barrier Reef.


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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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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*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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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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