Water monitoring group swings into action

The water monitoring sites established to date in the BBB

THE aim of the community water quality monitoring program is to improve our understanding of BBB sub-catchment sources of suspended sediment and associated nutrients discharged during wet season first flush and major flow events.

The map shows the nine sites where LDC is collecting water samples – these sites are where we lack historical high flow event water quality data.

Zoe Bainbridge demonstrates how to take a water sample

Catchment data will help scientists track sediment

WATER samples collected by the volunteer network of graziers across Burdekin tributaries and major sub-catchments will help trace the origin of suspended sediment.

This data will provide the LDC project with information on how best to tackle gully remediation, keep soil on the land, and improve water quality.  The data is being used in two ways:

  • To feed into modelling validation and to be used in research to better understand the sediment and nutrient composition of each tributary;
  • To be shared directly back to the landholders to help them understand how the land and soil types on their property, and surrounding area, react to various rainfall events.

    Steve Lewis TropWATER (left), Buster O’Loughlin Exevale Station and Barb Colls LDC during a training session at Exevale

Ideally the LDC hopes to capture one to three high flow events over the course of a wet season, and for each of these, capture the flow hydrograph – that is the rising, peak and falling stages of the river flow.  

Sediment and nutrient concentrations are generally highest on the rise and the peak which is collecting water samples at this time is a priority.

The participating graziers have been provided with kits that include sample bottles and data sheets to record the information, and those who are keen will also take photos of the event.  

Samples will be stored in a fridge on-site at the property until a LDC field officer is able to collect them following a rain event, to transport them to TropWATER.

TropWATER James Cook University scientists Steve Lewis and Zoe Bainbridge trained the volunteer network of graziers in the latter part of 2018, and will be analysing the samples – researching sediment characterisation and tracing from the BBB catchment to the Great Barrier Reef.

Steve and Zoe have spent more than a decade examining the sources, transport, loads and fate of sediment in catchments of the Great Barrier Reef.

Dr Steve Lewis said TropWATER was pleased to be part of the LDC project.

“It’s great to interact with graziers in the Burdekin region.  We’re able to use information collected directly from landholders and share this into the latest water quality research for the catchment,”  Dr Lewis said.

NQ Dry Tropics’ LDC Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Barbara Colls said grazier interest to take part in the water monitoring program was high.

“Landholders have shown great enthusiasm to participate, and everyone who engaged with the training by TropWATer found it informative,” Ms Colls said.

“Our first samples have been collected and are at the lab to be analysed.

“We anticipate the first round of results being compiled at the end of the wet season and should be available to share with landholders and the community by late May,” she said.

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 (P2R) program tracks the work of many stakeholders by monitoring progress towards reef targets in the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan.

Steve Lewis TropWATER with Eileen Hillier Glenmore Station (centre), and Barb Colls LDC