Protect our freshwater rivers & wetlands
Work begun on construction of Fitzroy River Barrage
Freshwater rivers and wetlands perform many important functions. They:
- provide habitat for plants and animals
- store, transport and release water
- purify water through dilution, filtration, sedimentation, and chemical and biological transformation
- provide refugia for plants and animals during drought.
Freshwater systems provide water for stock and domestic water, irrigation, mining, coal seam gas and industrial uses. Rivers and wetlands provide water, food and other resources to support Traditional Indigenous lifestyles and remain culturally significant to Indigenous people. Rivers and wetlands also provide important scenic, recreational and social values to communities.
The Freshwater rivers and wetlands fact sheet gives an overview of the current state and trends of this regional asset.
Mapping the key values and identifying areas that are at risk is an important tool for managing these assets effectively. The mapping tool below allows stakeholders to access specific data that can be used as a basis for sound decision making. If you are using an iPad or iPhone to access the CQSS:2030 website, please click on the mapping application button below to access it.
For more complete and detailed geographical data, or if you are using an iPad or iPhone, please visit the detailed map application by clicking the link below. You will be taken from the CQSS:2030 website to a powerful mapping application that draws on a richer data set.
In central Queensland
The Fitzroy Basin is the largest catchment on Australia’s east coast. A highly variable climate characterised by droughts and floods means that rivers and wetlands deal with extreme wet and dry times. Many streams and wetlands are ephemeral (they only hold water some of the time). Major flows occur during summer, and floods connect rivers, wetlands and floodplains across the catchments.
Regional water quality varies and is affected by land use and management practices and weather events. The Fitzroy River is naturally highly turbid.
The region has inland and coastal wetlands of national and international significance that support large numbers of migratory water birds. These areas include Corio Bay, the Fitzroy River floodplain and Lake Nuga Nuga. The region is also home to two endemic fish species: the southern saratogo and leathery grunter; and the Fitzroy River turtle.
Water is extracted from rivers and wetlands for irrigation, stock and domestic water and town water supplies. Water is also used by mining, gas, industrial and manufacturing enterprises. All water users in the region face challenges in managing water through floods and droughts.
There are three major dams and many weirs on the rivers of the Fitzroy Basin that provide water for larger water users. These inundate shallow water habitat and are barriers to fish passage. Water storage and distribution alter flow patterns, which in turn change the availability of habitat and connections in-stream and to wetlands. The impacts of water extraction are only evident at low and medium flows.
Adjacent land use can have significant impacts on habitat and water quality. Grazing of riparian zones can damage riparian habitat through trampling and nutrient enrichment by stock. Low groundcover and over-grazing can exacerbate soil erosion processes and result in large sediment loads delivered to rivers. Similarly, run-off from adjacent cropping lands can transport sediment, nutrients and pesticides into waterways. Water quality impacts are transported downstream where they impact the coral and seagrass communities of Keppel Bay and the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.
Open-cut coal mines can fill with large volumes of water during floods. This water, which becomes salty, may be disposed of by pumping out during periods of high flow. Some coal mines re-route streams to accommodate mining activities. Coal seam gas extraction produces large quantities of saline water that may be treated and released into waterways, used for irrigation or re-injected into deep groundwater.
Historic gold mining operations at Mount Morgan have left a legacy issue of acid mine drainage that impacts the Dee River.
Pests such as exotic fish and weeds are an ongoing issue. Extreme weather events such as flooding and drought can also stress aquatic ecosystems.
Above-average rainfall in recent years has caused a flush of freshwater into river and wetland ecosystems. However, floods have also caused erosion and infrastructure damage. The region’s River Health Report Card 2010- 2012 found the Fitzroy Basin to be in a fair to good condition overall.
Despite improved agricultural land and water management practices, the impacts on water quality and river health will continue to be an issue for the region. The impacts of agricultural intensification, mining and gas operations, coastal development and infrastructure are placing additional pressures on the region’s waterways. Downstream impacts on Keppel Bay and the Great Barrier Reef lagoon are likely to increase. The marine environment is in overall poor condition (2011-2012).
Increasing temperatures, changes to the seasonality of rainfall and extreme weather events will impact aquatic ecosystems and potentially create greater competition for water resources among users.
Five key attributes have been identified for the freshwater rivers and wetlands of central Queensland: rivers, wetlands and riparian ecosystems, flows and water quality. Strategies relate to improving our understanding of the cumulative impacts of how all land uses on our freshwater systems, and these systems can act as refugia during times of drought and other stresses. Integrated water resource planning is required to manage extraction at sustainable levels. Implementation measures include the protection and management of refugia and other high-value ecosystems, improving water use efficiency and reducing water quality impacts, and reducing the impacts of barriers to fish passage.
The Fitzroy Partnership for River Health collates, assesses and reports on the region’s aquatic ecosystem health every year.
The Reef Water Quality Protection Plan is supported by an extensive monitoring program and reports annually on the uptake of improved agricultural practices, wetland extent, water quality and marine health across Reef catchments.
The Queensland Government has conducted aquatic conservation assessments (ACAs) to determine the conservation values of rivers and wetlands across Great Barrier Reef catchments (including the Fitzroy) using AquaBAMM methods.
Water storage and extraction is managed under the region’s statutory Water Resource Plan and Resource Operations Plan.
An assessment of in‐stream barriers to fish passage has been undertaken and priority barriers identified for removal or modification (QDPI).
A regional Water Quality Improvement Plan has been developed to guide incentives for the adoption of improved agricultural practices (FBA).
Agricultural industry Best Management Practice programs, including Grazing BMP, Grains BMP, Growcom’s Farm Management System and BMP Cotton promote the adoption of good land and water management practices.
Reef Programme grants to support the adoption of improved agricultural practices with water quality benefits (Australian Government, FBA)
Rural Water Use Efficiency Irrigation Futures Program supports improved water management practices in agricultural industries (DNRM).
The DNRM is managing the legacy issues of acid mine drainage at the Mount Morgan mine.