Reducing sediment run-off

Reducing sediment run-off to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

Duration 00:01:56

Dr Stephen Lewis: [00:00:00]

Over the last couple of decades there's been research from a number of different organisations that's helped our understanding greatlyof the sources, transport, fate and impacts of sediment that has been eroded in the catchment that's moved into the streams and then gone out into the Great Barrier Reef.

Dr Scott Crawford: [00:00:18]

Well I guess erosion is an issue in the Great Barrier Reef in general because we get a lot of fine sediment coming down through floods and that smothers corals and it reduces the amount of light actually getting onto the seabed. So we're working in what we call the Triple B or the Bowen Broken Bogie catchments. The particular problem that we have is that these three catchments produce almost a quarter of the total fine sediment finding its way into the reef. The scale of the problem we've got is beyond the means of any one grazier. But the BMP program, stands for best management practice, and it sets best management practices for grazing with a clear focus around water quality. Programs like BMP will get the industry to a particular standard or level of performance. What we know from the water quality monitoring though is that we need transformational change. And that's where the Landholders Driving Change project comes in. A core element of the project is actually bringing together graziers, and all the knowledge that they have from managing the land every day of their lives, with scientists, who understand the processes that drive erosion.

Dr Stephen Lewis: [00:01:19]

Over the last decade or so we've seen really improvements through a number of different government initiatives that have helped reduce the amount of erosion from the landscape.

Dr Scott Crawford: [00:01:46]

I think a lot of people feel that we're fighting a losing battle in relation to the reef. That the problems are so big and so intractable that we just don't have the solutions for them. I feel like we've actually got an opportunity with this project to actually show that we can do it and then hopefully scale it up to other catchments across the GBR.

Farmers, scientists and industry experts are leading the way to reduce sediment flowing into local waterways and out into the waters of the Great Barrier Reef.

Sediment run-off, caused by erosion, washes into the Reef area in large plumes. There, the fine sediment combines with debris making gluey masses (flocs) which land on and cover coral, preventing the coral and underwater ecosystem from receiving the natural light it needs to survive.

Producers are making changes to their practices, including improving grazing management and addressing hillslope, gully and streambank erosion, a major contributor to sediment loads in waterways. Cattle movements, poor vegetation and changes to drainage lines are just some of the contributing factors to the formation of gullies.

Best practice management approaches, scientific studies and locally designed solutions underpin a significant program of works, funded through the Queensland Reef Water Quality Program, to improve farming practices and water quality in Reef catchments.


With a significant investment, intensive focus and a ground up approach, the Major Integrated Projects (MIPs) are a ground-breaking innovation aimed at achieving accelerated water quality outcomes in the Wet Tropics and Burdekin.

Under the Burdekin Major Integrated Project—Landholders Driving Change, graziers and scientists have designed land condition and water quality improvement solutions that will protect the graziers’ productive lands and the Great Barrier Reef.

Key components of Burdekin MIP—Landholders Driving Change—include:

  • trialling solutions to remediate significant erosion features
  • flexible and tailored support services to engage graziers in the Bowen-Broken-Bogie catchment
  • exploring incentives and policy options to support graziers to manage sustainably for long-term results
  • engaging with other land managers to deliver collaborative solutions.

The Grazing Resilience and Sustainable Solutions (GRASS) program supports graziers in the Burdekin, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions with areas of poor and degraded land condition to develop and implement a tailor-made action plan for land management. The action plan provides graziers with the latest tools and information to identify, maintain and improve their land condition with a specific focus to improve ground cover and reduce soil loss from their farm. Participating landholders may also be eligible to apply for incentive funding for works identified in action plans such as small-to-medium scale gully remediation and riparian and hillslope fencing.

Across industry and the Queensland and Australian governments, there are a number of other programs and support tools that help graziers adopt improved farming practices and reduce sediment run-off.

How you can help

From the Great Barrier Reef to Moreton Bay, all Queensland waterways are connected. There are things all of us can do to help. For example, avoiding littering, wherever you live, will prevent litter getting into waterways and making its way to the Great Barrier Reef. If you live in Reef catchment areas, you can make sure soil and fertiliser stays on your property.

And regardless of where you live, you can take actions to reduce your carbon footprint to ease the stress on the planet

Find out more about how you can help.