The quality of water flowing to the Great Barrier Reef from river catchments in the Wet Tropics has improved according to the latest Wet Tropics Report Card.
Nearly 90% of fresh water rivers and estuaries are graded 'Good' or 'Very Good' for the 2016-17 reporting period.
While continuing below average rainfall is a significant factor in the positive results, the release of the 2018 Report Card is encouraging news for the many growers across the region working hard to make practice changes.
The Wet Tropics Report Card is produced annually by the Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways Partnership, an alliance of over 50 organisations including WTSIP.
It is one of several regional Reef report cards that form part of the framework for monitoring and evaluating progress towards Australia's Reef 2050 targets for protecting the Great Barrier Reef.
Why are the results different to the GBR Report Card
The GBR Report Card and the Wet Tropics Report Card are connected but different.
Some of the key differences include:
- Scale: GBR-wide (Wet Tropics region) vs. region local catchment scale
- Land uses: Agriculture (Management practices) vs. all land uses
- Indicators: Offshore, coral, seagrass vs. freshwater basins, estuaries, inshore and offshore
- Data source: Paddock to Reef (17 Questions) vs. Several sources including Councils and Paddock to Reef
Paddock to Reef
The primary source of agricultural data used in both Report Cards comes from the Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting program (P2R), which collects information from farmers via the '17 Questions'.
The release of this year's Report Card and the positive news coverage that came with it, proves how important it is for us to capture accurate information.
The more accurate the information is the better able we are to prove the effects of changing farm practices and tell the story about the positive contribution being made by the industry to improve water quality.
When data is collected by the P2R program the information is kept confidential and reported by catchment so individual farm data can't be identified.
The 2019 Wet Tropics Report Card is likely to be a different story since it will include the severe flooding events that occurred in early 2018. Flooding is associated with higher runoff of sediment, nutrients and pesticides.
However, even if the results are less positive next year, it is important to take a longer term view since long-term trends of 5-10 years will provide us with more meaningful information that reflects the variability of our climate.
For more information go to wettropicswaterways.org.au