Graziers get to grips with water monitoring

THE LDC has set up a Community Water Quality Monitoring Group, comprised of local graziers.
These graziers will undertake water sampling training conducted by TropWater in mid-September.
The Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER) is Australia’s premiere tropical aquatic research group and is hosted by James Cook University.
It’s great that enthusiastic graziers have put their hands up to be involved in the LDC Community-based Water Monitoring program.
The data collected by the group will be used by the Queensland Government’s Paddock to Reef program.
With substantial investment and action underway to improve land practices, water quality and Reef health, the Paddock to Reef program tracks the work of many stakeholders by monitoring progress towards ambitious reef targets.
Like all reef action, there are many stakeholders involved in monitoring programs.
Protecting the Great Barrier Reef requires the efforts of many.
The LDC is excited about the Community Water Quality Monitoring Group because, by taking water samples themselves, graziers can learn from that water quality information and then take that information back to the BBB grazing community and collectively as a group try to improve local water quality.
We expect the BBB community-based water monitoring program to foster a strategic partnership between government and the monitoring group, allowing government to delegate some of its monitoring to the grazing community.
Not only will the 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 regulators.
This is why it’s important that scientists are involved with LDC, linking science with graziers in a way that enables research to be adapted and packaged in a more meaningful way.
It ensures landholders’ actions and choices are based on best available knowledge.
It also opens the way to graziers’ knowledge and innovation complementing the formal science.
TropWater scientists Steve Lewis and Zoe Bainbridge will train the graziers in water monitoring techniques.
Zoe has previously worked with landholders in monitoring sites in the BBB catchment from 2006-2013 .
For more information on the Community Water Quality Monitoring program, or water quality monitoring in general contact LDC Monitoring and Evaluation officer Barbara Colls on barbara.colls@nqdrytropics.com.au.

Strathalbyn grazier Bristow Hughes checks water quality from a stream on his property

What is Paddock to Reef?

The Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program (Paddock to Reef program) is a collaborative program designed to collect and integrate data on agricultural management, catchment indicators and loads, and the health of the Great Barrier Reef.
Data is collected and reported across six reef regions and results are then published in a report card.
This program measures progress against the water quality targets and actions under the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan.
Jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland governments, the Paddock to Reef Program also involves collaboration with industry bodies, regional natural resource management groups, landholders and research organisations.

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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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