Updating the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan

The Reef Water Quality Protection Plan sets out the partnership approach to improving Great Barrier Reef water quality across government, industry, conservation groups, landholders and regional bodies. The Plan started in 2003 and was updated in 2009 and 2013. Its focus is improving the quality of water flowing from farming land to the reef.

The Plan is being reviewed in 2016-17 to align with the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (Reef 2050 Plan). The review will also incorporate the Queensland Government’s response to the recommendations of the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce and new phases of Reef Trust.

What is the Reef 2050 Plan?

The Reef 2050 Plan builds on the successful partnership model of the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan. It is designed to address the full range of local pressures on the Great Barrier Reef and protect the reef’s Outstanding Universal Value.

The Reef 2050 Plan was launched in March 2015 and includes actions across seven theme areas.

Actions under the water quality theme include reviewing and updating the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan and its targets, continuing to implement the Plan, and actions to improve water quality from urban areas, point sources, and industrial and port activities such as dredging.

Updating the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan

The scope of the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan will be broadened from farming to addressing all land-based sources of water pollution. This will position it as the contributing plan under the Reef 2050 water quality theme.

The review process includes updating the Scientific Consensus Statement, setting new targets, identifying actions and investments, and how progress will be monitored and reported. The updated plan will be developed with stakeholders including industry, community, science and conservation groups.

The Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce recommended the water quality targets in the Reef 2050 Plan (up to an 80% reduction in nitrogen runoff and up to a 50% reduction in sediment runoff in key catchments) be reviewed and set at the basin scale. Currently, the targets do not take account of regional differences and may be beyond what the reef needs for some basins.

Therefore, the review of the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan will set water quality targets for the 35 basins that flow to the reef, helping to better target effort and resources.

Looking ahead

The Queensland and Australian governments will invest around $2 billion in the reef over the next decade. The Australian Government has recently committed up to an additional $1 billion over 10 years in investment finance under the Reef Fund for projects in the reef catchments that deliver clean energy, reduce emissions and improve water quality.

This level of combined investment, complemented by the efforts and activities of partners, should enable significant progress toward the water quality targets.