Water monitoring continues | Landholders Driving Change

2018-2019 Wet season samples taken

2019-2020 Wet season samples taken

Two-year total samples

Water monitoring group

keeps up the good work

Kirknie Station grazier GLEN REA shot this video as he was collecting a water sample from the Bogie River on 9 March, 2020.

Nine river and creek sites across the Bowen-Broken-Bogie (BBB) catchment are being sampled by landholders during rainfall-generated high flow events of the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 wet seasons.

These landholders make up the LDC Community Water Monitoring Group and were trained by the Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER) on how to collect and store water samples.

Multiple water samples are collected during each flow event to capture changing suspended sediment and nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) concentrations over the rising, peak and falling stages of stream flow.

Data collected for this project aims to improve our understanding of the loss of soil (and the nutrients attached to this soil) from the land into waterways during high rainfall events, and to quantify differences in the contribution of sediments and nutrients from each of the BBB sub-catchments.

A drier than average wet season during 2019-2020 resulted in less rainfall events and samples being collected by landholders, however preliminary data shows similar trends in concentrations being captured to last year. This provides validity and confidence to the results obtained. 

In two years of community monitoring 149 samples of sediments and nutrients have been collected by BBB landholders, from nine tributary sites. More detailed results from the more recent wet season will be released in coming months. 

Data through the community water monitoring program helps to inform future investment priorities and is also shared with the Source Catchments modelling team to improve scientific modelling.

The data is shared with the Queensland Government’s Paddock to Reef program to monitor progress against the water quality targets and actions under the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan.  

Click here to read the LDC Community Water Quality Sampling for sediments and nutrients in the Bowen-Broken-Bogie catchments 2018-2019 wet season. 

Results for the 2019-20 wet season will be shared at the LDC project’s annual Community Update event on 18 September.

Water quality results booklets were distributed to LDC Community Water Monitoring Group members at a feedback session in Collinsville last year.

Learning how to collect water samples is Havilah Station grazier Rebecca Lathwell (centre) with help from TropWATER scientists Zoe Bainbridge and Steve Lewis.

TropWATER scientist Steve Lewis (left) and NQ Dry Tropics LDC Land Management Support Coordinator Rodger Walker.

All their own work

ONE of the key strengths of the local monitoring group is that by taking water samples themselves, landholders can learn from that water quality information and take the information back to the BBB grazing community and collectively, work out ways to improve local water quality.

Not only can local knowledge be put to good use, community-based monitoring broadens traditional scientific approaches and enhances social capital by strengthening the bonds within the community and with government.

This is why it’s important that scientists are involved with the LDC project, linking science with landholders in a way that enables research to be adapted and packaged in a more meaningful way for all Great Barrier Reef stakeholders.

It ensures landholders’ decisions and actions about land management practices are based on best available knowledge.  It also opens the way to landholders’ knowledge and innovation complementing the formal science.

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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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