The Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan (PDF, 3.6MB) includes a range of water quality, land and catchment management and human dimension targets.

Science shows five main pollutants impact the Reef – sediments (especially fine sediments), dissolved inorganic nitrogen, particulate nitrogen, particulate phosphorus and pesticides. Water quality targets have been developed for these pollutants for catchments that flow to the Great Barrier Reef.

Other pollutants such as heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, plastics and micro plastics also affect the Reef but the relative risks are likely to be low with some minor differences between regions. There is insufficient information available to set targets for these pollutants.

The pesticide target is based on the concentrations required to protect 99 percent of aquatic species at the river mouth, applying across all catchments. This reflects the fact that high concentrations of pesticides have a worse effect on Reef aquatic species.

The targets for sediments, particulate nutrients and dissolved inorganic nitrogen are based on the quality of water that corals and seagrass need to be healthy. They are calculated as reductions in anthropogenic loads – the pollutant load from human activities.

Some catchments have a target of maintaining the current load for some or all pollutants. This means the catchment has a minimal anthropogenic load for the relevant pollutant/s. The aim in these catchments is to maintain current water quality so there is no increase in pollutant loads.

Water quality targets have not been determined for the Black catchment, and some targets were not determined for the Ross catchment, due to a lack of information.

Land and catchment management targets are set at the whole-of-Reef scale for tracking and reporting changes that lead to water quality improvements.

The land management practice adoption targets for agriculture are based on increasing the area of land managed using best management practices for water quality outcomes.

The catchment management targets aim for increased ground cover and riparian vegetation and to prevent further loss of wetland extent. Good ground cover and riparian vegetation help to minimise rainfall run-off and streambank erosion and reduce erosion and sediment loss. The wetland extent target aims to protect the values of wetlands and they role they play in ensuring ecosystem health.

The Human dimension target focuses on the social, cultural, institutional and economic factors that underpin water quality improvements.

The below figure shows the link between the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan outcome, objectives and targets.

Read more about the targets, land uses and pollutant sources for each catchment.

For more information, read the Development of basin-specific ecologically relevant water quality targets for the Great Barrier Reef (PDF, 3.2MB) technical report.