Catchment pollutant loads
The Catchment pollutant loads targets in Reef Water Quality Protection Plan 2009 (Reef Plan) were:
- A minimum 50 per cent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus loads at the end-of-catchments by 2013.
- A minimum 50 per cent reduction in pesticides at the end-of-catchments by 2013.
- A minimum 20 per cent reduction in sediment load at the end-of-catchments by 2020.
Reef Plan was over half way towards the sediment and pesticide targets by June 2013. However, progress towards the nitrogen and phosphorus targets fell well short.
There has been very good progress towards the sediment target with a reduction of 11 per cent by June 2013. The greatest sediment reduction was from the Burdekin region (16 per cent).
Moderate progress was made towards the pesticide target with a reduction of 28 per cent by June 2013. The greatest reduction was from the Mackay Whitsunday region (42 per cent).
There was poor progress towards the phosphorus target with a 13 per cent reduction by June 2013. The greatest reduction was from the Wet Tropics region (19 per cent). Progress towards the nitrogen target was very poor with a 10 per cent reduction by June 2013. The greatest reduction was from the Mackay Whitsunday region (17 per cent).
When the targets were set in 2009, they were based on the best available evidence and designed to be ambitious. Since then, scientific knowledge, monitoring and modelling information has advanced significantly and it is recognised that the targets, in particular the nitrogen target, were always going to be difficult to meet. The targets have been refined in Reef Plan 2013. However, it is acknowledged that the nitrogen target may not be achievable using best practice alone and new thinking and approaches will be required.