A Sub Catchment Adaptive Management Approach to Water Quality in Sugarcane

The Burdekin Bowen Integrated Floodplain Management Advisory Committee (BBIFMAC) has recently completed a project funded by the Department of Environment and Heritage (DEH) and NQ Dry Tropics, to carry out real-time water quality monitoring in a sub catchment of the Burdekin River Irrigation Area.

In the Burdekin Irrigation area, over the past few years, extensive water quality monitoring has taken place both on-farms, through the three-year BBIFMAC managed “Water Quality Pixel” project; and in-stream via several regional water quality monitoring programs conducted by various agencies (TropWater, EHP, QDAFF).

The missing link in this water quality monitoring has been the connection between the farmer management practices to the water quality in the drainage systems. As a result, this project aimed to make the direct connection (paddock to stream) by intensively monitoring in real time the runoff at the downstream end of the sub-catchment stream/drain, and tracking any spikes in concentration of nutrients and pesticides, back to the farm and paddocks. The contributing management practices can then be quickly identified and modified or alternative practices discussed with the farmer.

The results were discussed amongst the farmers in the sub-catchment group at regular project team meetings and documentation of results and management changes were reported within the group and to the wider industry (maintaining confidentiality). Through this process, the project has contributed to Reef Plan objectives by:

  • Identifying improved land management practices to maximise reef water quality improvements
  • Providing coordinated education and extension services to landholders to assist with uptake of land management practices that maximise reef water quality improvement
  • Reducing the pollutant load from non-point sources in water entering the reef
  • Reducing nitrogen, phosphorus and pesticide loads at the end of catchments
  • Assisting cane growers with the adoption of improved nutrient and pesticide management practices

Click here to download the project Fact Sheet.