A total of $141 million has been committed to a series of regional water quality programs that will directly reduce nitrogen, sediment and pesticide loads from priority catchments. These programs will focus on proven, on-ground measures for improving water quality, including through catchment restoration and improved land management practices.
#Priorities for investment
The priority catchments under the regional programs, as well as the level of investment, were selected based on the priorities set out in the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan, together with a detailed technical assessment prepared by Alluvium Consulting to determine where investments would have the greatest impact. More information on the prioritisation process is available below in the Alluvium 2019 Investment Pathways Report.
#Implementing the programs
Target pollution load reductions have been set for each catchment, and regional programs and associated projects are being implemented to achieve these targets and deliver better water quality for the Reef. Projects being funded under the regional program primarily involve:
- Practice change: such working with farmers and graziers to improve management practices related to stock management, nutrients, pesticides, and irrigation. These projects aim to reduce pollution runoff while improving farm productivity and profitability
- Landscape remediation: this includes restoring gullies and streambanks, such as through earthworks and revegetation, to reduce erosion and the amount of fine sediment impacting the Reef.
However, all options for improving water quality are being considered, provided they can be shown to be effective and efficient.
Projects are being selected through open, competitive processes, based on their cost-effectiveness, to ensure the programs achieve the greatest water quality improvement with the available funding.
For each regional program, the deliver model has been tailored to the local situation. For a number of the programs, a regional program manager and/or regional partnership coordinator has been appointed to oversee implementation and maximise the value of the program. These roles are typically filled by local organisations, with strong regional networks and the capacity to bring partners together while also monitoring progress on the ground.
#Tracking progress to targets
All projects are required to report progress to the Paddock to Reef integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program. This will provide transparency and accountability on how projects, and the programs as a whole, are performing, including progress towards the program water quality targets.
#What happens next?
Regional programs are being rolled out on a phased basis. The programs fall into one of three categories:
- Programs fully operational, with on ground projects underway. These programs will generally run until 30 June 2024.
- Open calls for projects completed and project selection and regional planning underway.
- Open calls for projects still to come. This applies to the Tully-Johnstone and the Russell-Mulgrave regional programs. These programs are expected to commence in late 2020.
Regional water quality programs with projects currently underway.