Healthy waterways are a vital ingredient in the social, cultural, economic and environmental constructs of a healthy society, with the state of freshwater and marine environments, inclusive of the Great Barrier Reef, providing invaluable benefits throughout the Mackay and Whitsunday region. The health of these catchments are essential to bestowing clean and safe drinking water, providing nursery habitats for recreational and commercial fisheries, as well allocating sufficient water sources for efficient agricultural productivity.
A 2015 report, undertaken by the Healthy Rivers to Reef Program, investigated both freshwater and marine environments throughout the region. A number of areas, particularly the river basins, were standardized as being in a ‘poor’ state. One of these low-ranking river basins was the Pioneer River, one of the largest utilized water sources within region.
This rank came as a result of the high level of pesticides, nutrients, and sediment loads detected throughout the catchment, as well as the lacking extent of riparian cover and wetlands observed. A familiar situation that extends throughout the central Queensland coast, with the Don, Proserpine and Plane catchments which appear to be reaping the same consequential outcomes.
At the time of the study, the overall waterways throughout the area were reported as being in a ‘moderate’ condition of health. However, since this report many inshore and offshore reef systems have undergone extreme coral bleaching and weather events which have adversely impacted the conditions of these systems.
The Great Barrier Reef, continues to acquire the adverse effects of the degraded water quality in the region, with the state of the neighboring rivers being responsible for the loss of coral habitat and sea grass beds throughout these fragile systems. This also contributes to the vulnerability of the Reefs UNESCO World Heritage listing; a status that is currently balancing on the thinnest of threads.
Although there are multiple valued organisations standing up and coming together to efficiently monitor and mitigate the current issues associated with water quality and industry and government are collaborating to improve their practices, the results from the Healthy Rivers to Reef Program, as well as the report from the World Heritage Committee, clearly identify that more work urgently needs to be done if the region intends to obtain successful outcomes.
To see the full report card, click here.