The health of South East Queensland’s waterways came under scrutiny today, as the 2008 Report Card results were presented simultaneously at four locations across South East Queensland, following an intensive 12-month aquatic Ecosystem Health Monitoring Program (EHMP) coordinated by the South East Queensland Healthy Waterways Partnership.
Based on the analysis of data from 135 freshwater and 254 estuarine and marine sites (389 in total) the 2008 Report Card assigns grades ranging from ‘A for excellent’ to ‘F for fail’ to 19 catchments and 18 estuaries in South East Queensland as well as nine zones within Moreton Bay, for the period of July 2007 to June 2008.
`Professor Paul Greenfield, Vice Chancellor of the University of Queensland and Chair of the Healthy Waterways Scientific Expert Panel delivered the results to Queensland Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation, Andrew McNamara.
“We’ll continue to work with the Partnership to improve and maintain the health of waterways in South East Queensland,” Mr McNamara said.
The Bligh government has invested $20 million over four years in the SEQ Healthy Waterways Partnership. Mr McNamara said it was encouraging to see some improvements to South East Queensland’s estuaries this year.
“The health of our waterways is vital to maintaining and improving the lifestyles and livelihoods of our communities,” he said.
“Substantial upgrades to wastewater treatment plants have reduced point source pollution in western Moreton Bay, with Waterloo Bay receiving an A rating for the first time.
“Unfortunately significant improvements to the overall health of the Bay were offset by the impacts of major flood events that carried high loads of sediments to the Bay.”
While the 2008 results revealed a slight improvement in the overall score of freshwater streams due to increased flows, some streams under continued pressure from poor riparian condition and catchment land use have shown further decline. Lockyer Creek deteriorated from D- to F and the Bremer River from D to F, while urbanised streams in Lower Brisbane and Redlands have maintained an F rating with only slight improvements.
Most of the estuaries in South East Queensland showed improvements in grades this year. Ecosystem health improved significantly in Cabbage Tree, Oxley, Tingalpa and Eprapah Creeks, reflecting significant investments in wastewater treatment plants, which led to the reduction of point source pollution. Ecosystem health also improved slightly in the Maroochy, Pine, Tallebudgera and Currumbin Estuaries, with lower nutrient and chlorophyll a levels compared to last year.
Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman said the annual Report Card was an important tool to raise awareness of the human impact on our waterways.
“There is a very real need to protect our waterways. The Report Card allows us to monitor waterway health and keep our progress in check. It also demonstrates that our investment in upgrading wastewater treatment plants and other initiatives are paying off," he said.
“All South East Queensland councils need to keep working to improve ecosystem health.”
Chair of the Healthy Waterways Scientific Expert Panel Prof. Paul Greenfield said the increasing population of South East Queensland, exacerbated by climate variability, was a major challenge in maintaining good ecosystem health in South East Queensland’s waterways.
“To ensure future development occurs without causing further declines, we must continue to identify and undertake actions to improve the health of degraded waterways and protect areas of high ecological value,” Prof. Greenfield said.
Prof. Greenfield also added that greater investment in protection and restoration was required, particularly in the catchment areas under development pressure, such as expanding urban centres and intensive agricultural areas.
“One such initiative is the Healthy Country Project, which is a collaboration between SEQ Healthy Waterways Partnership, SEQ Catchments, Department of Primary Industries & Fisheries and South East Queensland Traditional Owners Alliance. Healthy Country aims to find cost-effective ways to reduce sediments and nutrients entering waterways from three priority catchments, Logan-Albert, Bremer and Lockyer, while at the same time aiming to improve river health.
“In addition, Water Sensitive Urban Design must be implemented across new and existing urban areas to reduce diffuse source pollution entering our waterways — and to address the declines in urbanised streams,” Prof. Greenfield said.
Since 1999, the Ecosystem Health Monitoring Program (EHMP) has produced the annual Ecosystem Health Report Card, providing a succinct 'snapshot' of ecosystem health. The area covered by the monitoring program ranges from Noosa in the North, South to the New South Wales border and West to Toowoomba.
The EHMP is managed by the South East Queensland Healthy Waterways Partnership and implemented by a large team of experts from the Queensland Government (the Department of Natural Resources and Water, Environmental Protection Agency and Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services), universities (the University of Queensland and Griffith University) and CSIRO. – South East Queensland Healthy Waterways Partnership
|Report Card Grades – freshwater||2007||2008|
|Lower Brisbane Catchment||F1F|
|Oxley Creek Catchment||F1D|
|Upper Brisbane Catchment||F||D-|
|Report Card Grades – estuarine and marine||2007||2008|
|Cabbage Tree Estuary||F||D|
|Moreton Bay – overall rating||B-||B-|
1 Combined Grade for Lower Brisbane and Oxley Creek CatchmentsReads: 1062