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Water quality on Cape York

Words Sandra Lloyd | Photo provided

Cape York Natural Resource Management (Cape York NRM) has a range of projects focusing on water quality monitoring, grazing and horticulture, weeds and feral animals and gully erosion control. These projects combine to deliver a comprehensive approach to improving the sustainability of the industries and communities on the Cape along with protecting the natural assets and improving quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef.

Cape York Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program works to measure and report on the regional progress towards the Reef Water Quality Protection 2050 Plan goal and targets.  Practice adoption, fertiliser and pesticide usage data is collected from those involved in Reef initiatives across east coast flowing catchments.

The Reef Trust Gully Erosion program reduces sediment loads from gully erosion by 50 percent in the highest priority sub-catchments in the Normanby Basin. Griffith University is assisting in the delivery of the project components that involve strategic erosion control work to stabilise the most actively eroding gullies.  Other activities include the direct seeding of native grasses and trees to bare areas within active gully complexes and the erection of cattle exclusion fencing to prevent cattle and other livestock from causing more damage to vulnerable gullies. 

As a continuation of the ongoing gully remediation on Crocodile Station, three fast moving gully heads have been stabilised using rock chutes and energy dissipation pools. The channels downstream of the gullies have been revegetating over time.  Establishing grass cover and monitoring performance of the structures will be a focus for the coming wet season. Griffith University have installed water quality monitoring equipment to quantify the water quality benefits of the erosion control structures.

Reef Trust Phase III: Reef Alliance - Growing a Great Barrier Reef aims to achieve a reduction in Nitrogen and other nutrients and pollutants related to agriculture, a reduction in sediment load derived from grazing land, the continuation of management practice improvement in horticulture and dairy farming, and soil and nutrient management planning activities.

Little is known about nitrogen run-off from banana paddocks in Lakeland so farmers established a farmer-based water quality monitoring program. Swiss Farms and Kureen Farms are testing the levels of nitrogen present in water run-off, and monitoring water quality in the area. They are improving water quality that exits their farms by understanding the variation in soil composition, and continuing to improve farm management practices.

Other projects

Projects for the reduction of vertebrate pests and weeds on Cape York including Rubber Vine, Pond Apple, Hymenachne, Gamba Grass, and feral pigs are ongoing.