Monitoring group mobilises for ex-Cyclone Penny deluge

Steve Lewis, TropWATER (left), Exevale Station grazier Buster O’Loughlin and LDC MERI Officer Barb Colls during a training visit to Exevale Station

Bowen and Collinsville graziers have formed a community water quality monitoring group to improve knowledge and understanding of water quality in the Bowen Broken Bogie (BBB) catchment.

Graziers will collect water samples during the wet season at nine sites located across the catchment  that have been identified as lacking historical high flow event water quality data.

An initiative of NQ Dry Tropics’ Landholders Driving Change project, the aim of the water quality monitoring is to improve the BBB community and State Government’s understanding of BBB sub-catchment sources of suspended sediment and associated nutrients discharged during wet season first flush and major flow events.

The data collected will be used by the Queensland Government’s Paddock to Reef program which collects and integrate data on agricultural management, catchment indicators and loads, and the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

Grazier Buster O’Loughlin, of Exevale Station, said he volunteered to take part in the program because it opened the way to graziers’ knowledge and innovation complementing the formal science.

“This is an opportunity to find the missing pieces of the puzzle to enable us to have a more accurate picture of water quality in the BBB,” Mr O’Loughlin said.

“Understanding local water quality means landholders’, and other land managers, including utility companies and mines, can adopt land management practices based on the best available science.

“Grazier knowledge and innovation can complement the formal science, and we can also learn from science – I see this as a partnership between graziers and scientists.”

Scottville resident Garry Reed said he believed the water quality data would help the wider community to better manage land use in a responsible and sustainable way.

“This is a credible science-based piece of work, one that will provide information that will help us manage land in a sustainable way for generations ,” he said.

NQ Dry Tropics’ LDC Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Barb Colls said she expected the BBB community-based water monitoring program to foster a strategic partnership between government and the monitoring group.

“Community-based monitoring broadens traditional scientific approaches and enhances social capital by strengthening the bonds within the community and with regulators,” Ms Colls said.

“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, packaged and communicated in a more meaningful way,” she said.

The Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER), hosted by James Cook University, trained the graziers in sampling techniques, and will also be analyzing the samples.

Results are expected to be available to share with landholders and the community by late May.


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.
KEQ #8

KEQ #7
KEQ #6

KEQ #5

KEQ #4

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.

KEQ #3

*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.

KEQ #1

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.

KEQ #2

*GLMWW = Grazing Land Management Wire and Water

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