Addressing a significant threat to the Great Barrier Reef

Declining coastal water quality, influenced by land-based run-off, is recognised as a significant threat to the long-term health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef. Coral reefs, and the ecosystems they sustain, depend on the quality of the water within and around them. In particular, nutrient run-off has been linked to outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish – a significant contributor to the loss of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef.

Across the six-year Reef Trust Partnership, $201 million has been dedicated to improving water quality. 

As a first step in accordance with the 2018-19 Activity Gantt Chart plan, the GBRF is establishing a Grant Program (stage one) of up to $20 million for proven projects in this area.

Climate change is the number one threat to coral reefs. But the science is clear: coral reefs need action both at the local and global level. Improving water quality is a critical and practical pathway at a local level to improve Reef health.

Professor Peter Mumby, GBRF Chief Scientist

About the Reef Water Quality Improvement Grant Program - Stage 1

The partnership between the Australian Government and the GBRF is centred on a landmark investment of $443.3 million to build the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef. This is the largest single government investment in protecting the Reef and its Outstanding Universal Value. Over six years, this investment will support delivery of the Reef Trust Partnership with project implementation from 2019.

The partnership includes $201 million to improve water quality on the Great Barrier Reef.

As indicated in the 2018-19 work plan published in September, this first round of water quality funding will focus on projects that seek to build on existing programs with proven beneficial water quality outcomes, address clearly articulated needs within Reef catchments, and lay the foundations for the longer term Reef Trust Partnership Investment Strategy. 

Future open funding rounds will focus on innovative or new approaches.

The Reef Water Quality Improvement Grant Program - Stage 1 invites applications for funding for projects using existing and proven techniques to deliver progress towards the targets outlined in the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan.


Who can apply?

Grant applicants must be:

  • operating in Australia and have an Australian Business Number (ABN);
  • able to demonstrate capacity to deliver the project; and
  • an existing or recent provider implementing a proven approach to improve water quality outcomes in the Great Barrier Reef catchment.

What type of projects are eligible for this Grant?

To be eligible the project must satisfy the specific criteria as detailed in the Grant Guidelines. Broadly the project must:

  • address the primary pollutants identified in the 2017 Scientific Consensus Statement and be consistent with the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan
  • be implemented in a very high, high or medium priority area as identified in the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan for the target pollutant;
  • be time critical such that there are benefits or opportunities related to the investment that may be lost if project implementation is delayed;
  • maintain or build existing on-ground delivery capacity and capability related to one or more of the following: (i) agricultural extension and agronomic services, including related to cane and grazing; (ii) land manager engagement to encourage stewardship; or (iii) catchment restoration to decrease erosion; 
  • be delivered by existing providers implementing a proven approach;
  • consolidate or build on previous reef protection initiatives; and
  • include measurable outcomes and have demonstrated systems in place to record measurable outcomes, which must be reported in accordance with the Paddock to Reef Program as a minimum.

What is the value of these grants?

Projects over $500,000 will be considered for funding. A total of $20 million is available through this stage of the Grant Program and it is anticipated that between 10 and 20 projects will be funded.

When are applications due?

Applications close Monday 10 December 2018, 11.45pm AEST. 

All applications (and all attachments) must be submitted online at

What is the purpose of this Grant Program?

  • Maintain momentum, ensure continuity and maximise high value and/or high impact opportunities within, or that build upon, existing programs.
  • Lay the foundations for future work under the water quality component to maximise the potential and value of the 5-year investment, with a singular focus on maintaining or building delivery capacity in the Great Barrier Reef catchments.
  • Build on prior investments and initiatives that can demonstrate and are independently recognised as having made significant contributions towards achieving the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan targets.

When will more funding be available for water quality projects?

This is the first stage of funding within the water quality improvement component of the Reef Trust Partnership. Future funding opportunities, which may focus on broader and potentially more innovative approaches to improving water quality, will align with the Reef Trust Partnership Investment Strategy and Annual Work Plans that are in development and will be published in 2019.

How can I find out more information?

Online Information Session - 16 November 2018

We recorded the session and condensed it into a 30 minute presentation so you can catch up on what you missed or refresh your memory of all the points covered.

AIMS water quality measurement.jpg
restoration - people planting a tree.jpg