Declining water quality associated with run-off from the adjacent catchments is a major cause of the current poor state of many of the coastal and marine ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef. The Reef Trust Partnership includes $201 million to contribute to efforts aimed at addressing water quality issues. Improving water quality is expected to play an important role in improving ecosystem resilience. 

The Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan identifies priority catchments and targets for reducing pollution from catchments flowing to the Reef. Funding under the Reef Trust Partnership aims to deliver measurable progress towards those targets. 

View open calls here.

Where will the funding be allocated?

A five-year investment plan has been developed which aims to address the three priority pollutants: dissolved inorganic nitrogen, fine sediments, and pesticides. Funding has been allocated across five separate work streams.

1. Water Quality Improvement Grant stage one ($19.7m) 

Eleven projects were awarded to maintain/build on-ground delivery capacity throughout regional Queensland. These projects were contracted in early 2019 and are currently being implemented. To find out more about these projects, see at the bottom of the page.

2. Regionally focussed on-ground actions ($141.1m) 

Funding will directly reduce nitrogen, sediment and pesticide loads from priority catchments through a series of regional water quality improvement programs. Target pollution load reductions have been set for each catchment, and regional programs and associated projects will need to demonstrate how they will contribute towards these targets. Funding at the catchment scale is shown in the map below. 

The first of the regional programs to be established will be the Mackay-Whitsunday Water Quality Program and the Fitzroy Water Quality Program. 

Engagement of organisations for all three roles in all regions will be via open, competitive processes. Follow this link know more about the current open call for Mackay-Whitsunday and Fitzroy.   

3. Conservation and protection of less-disturbed catchments ($10m) 

Aims to avoid degradation of the quality of water entering the Reef, particularly from less-disturbed catchments, and contribution to land stewardship objectives. A consultancy will be carried out in 2019/2020 to identify priority areas and interventions.  

4. Traditional Owner-led protection initiatives ($20m) 

Outcomes include: investment in Traditional Owner Country based planning and management for improved water quality outcomes; improved capacity and opportunity for Traditional Owner enterprises to become engaged in water quality programs; Cultural value recognised in protection and improvement efforts.  

5. Innovation and systems change ($10m) 

There is a need for a transformational change in how water quality improvement activities are designed, funded, and implemented to support enduring and self-sustaining improvements at sufficient scale. Priority areas for investment will be: 

  • Technology transformation 

  • Sharing and management of industry and landholder-owned data 

  • Broad and local scale planning of future interventions 

  • Innovative financing and funding initiatives. 


How were the priority regions for investment identified? 

The priority catchments that make up the regional programs, as well as the level of investment, were guided by the priorities set out in the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan, together with a detailed technical assessment to understand where investments would have the greatest impact. More information on the prioritisation process is available below. 

Alluvium (2019) Effective and Efficient Pathways for Investment in Improved Water Quality in the Great Barrier Reef

How can I get involved? 

You can submit a proposal to one of the open calls. To stay up to date with the opportunities, subscribe at

I have a proposal for a new project. Can I submit it for funding? 

The Foundation will only consider proposals as part of a formal open calls. If you have developed a proposal, you should determine the most appropriate open call, given the nature and location of your proposal. Detailed criteria will be released at the time of the relevant call. The Foundation will not accept proposals outside of the open calls. 

Is water quality really an issue for the Reef? 

The 2017 Scientific Consensus Statement on Land Use Impacts on Great Barrier Reef Water Quality and Ecosystem Condition is the most comprehensive and authoritative work on the significance of water quality for the Reef. The Scientific Consensus Statement identifies the decline of marine water quality associated with run-off as a major cause of the poor state of many of the coastal and marine ecosystems of the Reef. The Foundation strongly supports the Scientific Consensus Statement. 

Project Partners

Tully Variety Management Group.Photo credit-Cane Changer.jpg

Queensland Cane Growers Organisation Ltd

Cane Changer 2.0

Reef Trust Partnership funding: $1,413,500  

Region: Wet Tropics, Mackay, Burdekin and Southern Reef catchment regions 

This behaviour change program uses co-design principals to elicit improved practises through accreditation in the SmartCane Best Management Program and other forms of ‘commitment’ towards improved practices. This phase of the project will build on the existing program in the Wet Tropics and initiate new programs in Mackay, Burdekin and Southern Regions. 

Photo credit-Sugar Research Australia.CAPTION-Gavin Rodman (SRA Adoption Officer)Mount Sophia farmer Glen Anderson,Belinda Billing(SRA Principal Researcher)&Chris Sterling(SRA Technician)installing water quality monitoring equipment.JPG

Sugar Research Australia

Cane to Creek 2.0

Reef Trust Partnership funding: $2,226,806  

Region: Mossman, Mulgrave-Russell, Johnstone, Murray, Herbert and Haughton catchments 

Works on farm with small cane grower groups to address nitrogen and pesticides. The program breaks down the barriers between scientists and growers, maximises peer-to-peer learning opportunities and improves understanding of the drivers of water quality impacts. 

Photo Credit-Queensland Farmers Federation. MIP site assessment.jpg

Queensland Farmers Federation

Agricultural Extension Work Placement Program

Reef Trust Partnership funding: $1,146,720 

Region: Very high, high and moderate priority Reef catchments as outlined in the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan (from Burdekin to the Burnett Mary) 

This project will increase the delivery capacity related to agronomic extension by training early career extension officers (agricultural experts) in practices relevant to addressing sediment, nitrogen and pesticide runoff.  The project will involve a 12-month placement of up to eight early career extension officers within various organisations in reef catchments, to increase capacity to support land management practice change. 

Photo Caption-Gully work.Photo Credit-Mary River Catchment Coordination.jpg

Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee

Gully erosion control in the Mary River Catchment ​

Reef Trust Partnership funding: $646,500 

Region: Mary River catchment 

Addresses sediment discharge to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon through gully restoration on grazing land. The project will also work with graziers to increase awareness and actively manage lands that are susceptible to erosion through the adoption of best land management practices. 


The Innovative Gully Remediation Project Phases 1 and 2 which is a collaborative project supported by the Queensland Government’s Reef Innovation Fund and Greening Australia’s Reef Aid Program5.JPG

Greening Australia ​in conjunction with Green Collar

Innovative Gully Project - Phase 3

Reef Trust Partnership funding: $2,092,040 

Region: Lower Burdekin 

This project aims to reduce the amount of sediment discharging to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon by approximately 3,200 tons per annum through remediation of alluvial gullies by using established techniques. In addition, the project will aim to pilot the Reef Credit system and investigate how Reef Credits could be used to fund gully remediation works and ongoing maintenance requirements. 

Photo Credit- Farmacist. Photo Caption-Steve Muscat from Oakenden near Mackay collecting a water sample from his sediment detention basin.jpg


Project Bluewater

Reef Trust Partnership funding: $1,243,500 

Region: Haughton, Pioneer and O’Connell Rivers and Plane Creek catchment areas 

This project reduces the runoff of pesticides into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon through the adoption of improved sugar cane farming practices. The project will directly engage over 70 growers, managing over 12,000 ha of land, in the catchments of Haughton, Pioneer, O’Connell Rivers, and Plane Creek identified as high priority in the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan. 

Photo Credit-BRIA Irrigators. Photo Caption-Nick Thomas, Wilmar Sugar, Teri Buono, DAF, Mario Barbagallo, BRIA Irrigators, with a water monitor.png

BRIA Irrigators Ltd

An Evidence Based Approach to Improving Water Quality in Barratta Creek Catchment (Stage 2)

Reef Trust Partnership funding: $950,520 

Region: Barrata Creek System (Burdekin River Irrigation Area) 

Farmer (cane) led project which raises awareness and drives practice change through improved fertiliser application, modifying pesticide type and quantity and improving irrigation efficiency.  

Group Photo of the Project Catalyst Management Team and some growers (1).JPG

Catchment Solutions ​

Project Catalyst - Extension

Reef Trust Partnership funding: $2,407,751 

Region: Wet Tropics, Burdekin and Mackay/Whitsunday regions 

Supports a network of cane farmers in the Reef catchments to improve farming practices to reduce nutrient run off to the Reef. This is achieved by focusing on soil testing, nutrient management plans and implementation of controlled traffic management systems (reducing soil compaction by confining heavy machinery to permanent traffic lanes). This phase of the project will engage new farmers and continue to work with previously engaged cane farmers in Mackay Whitsunday, Burdekin and Wet Tropics. 

John Jess Bidgood.Photo credit-Resource Consulting Services Australia (1).JPG

Resource Consulting Services

Project Pioneer - Extension

Reef Trust Partnership funding: $2,899,500 

Region: Very high, high and moderate priority Reef catchments as outlined in the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan (from Wet Tropics to the Burnett Mary) 

Project Pioneer promotes the adoption of regenerative grazing operations to increase ground cover in grazing lands and reduce sediment in runoff to the Great Barrier Reef. In addition to the improved water quality entering the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, other environmental outcomes include reduction in carbon loss from soils, increased biodiversity on-farm, particularly soil and aquatic life, and increased landscape resilience to the effects of climate change. 

Photo Credit-Queensland Farmers Federation.jpg

Queensland Farmers Federation

Reef Alliance Project, Phase 2

Reef Trust Partnership funding: $3.5 million 

Region: Very high, high and moderate priority Reef catchments as outlined in the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan (Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay/Whitsundays, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary) 

Supports cane farmers and graziers by using one-to-one agricultural experts (extension officers) to move 462 land holders, covering 209,750 ha, towards best practice to reduce sediment, nitrogen and pesticides.  

Photo caption-Property mapping with graziers Jo and David Murphy (Clothes Peg Station) Photo credit-NQ Dry Tropics.jpg

Reefwise Grazing of Burdekin Rangelands

NQ Dry Tropics

Reef Trust Partnership funding: $659,984 

Region: Burdekin 

This project will produce dedicated and specific education, training, capacity building and incentives that will take 12 grazing landholders on a progressive journey towards techniques that proactively manage stock grazing pressure and minimise potential for declining land condition leading to reduced sediment runoff. The project will also result in a further 50 landholders using increased knowledge and skills to apply management changes to improve the quality of water discharged from their property.