Rain Roundup – 2018 | Landholders Driving Change

Rainfall figures for 2018 in the BBB catchment

By Land Management Coordinator Rodger Walker

IT’S not just the recent weather that makes us want to look back on the year’s rainfall, it’s also the time of year when we reflect.

Weather is such an important component to grazing, and the New Year is a good time to share some weather-related summaries produced by Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

Graziers know data at bom.gov.au/climate/data/stations/ is a handy reference when judging production for the past year.

Our perceptions of the weather can often over-ride realities of what the rainfall patterns were across the region, particularly during periods of drought.

A number of sites in the BBB catchment are registered BOM recording sites and submit data daily.

Summarising and mapping the 2018 rainfall totals shows just how below-average totals were for the catchment.

It also highlights the value of the major rainfall event delivered by ex-Cyclone Penny.

For each recording station, a graph of the distribution and cumulative totals of rainfall events during the year can be downloaded via a few clicks.

These site records from across the catchment are very valuable in understanding the local catchment and its pastures, soils and hydrology.

If there are landholders keen to share long-term rainfall data with the LDC project to enhance this understanding, please get in touch.

The BOM reported regional Queensland had its fifth-warmest year on record using mean temperature as a criteria.

Large parts of the southern and central interior reported rainfall totals that were in the lowest 10 per cent of historical records.

Click here for a summary of Queensland’s 2018 temperature and rainfall data.

Here is the recently-released Australian state of the climate report.

Weather outlooks for 2019 are here, and the latest river heights and rainfall for sites in the Burdekin catchment are here.

Some of 2018 data from across the BBB is shown below.

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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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