Researchers look to protect iconic reef

Australian researchers are teaming up with communities living near one of Australia's most famous attractions to protect it from poor water quality.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is consulting people in Queensland about their water use as they draw up sustainable solutions to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

The researchers are also looking at the cost-effectiveness of land management options and conducting extensive environmental monitoring and modelling in the region.

Water quality around the Great Barrier Reef has been declining largely as a result of sediment and chemical run-off from farming which drains into the Tully River, and the loss of coastal wetlands, which act as a natural filter.

“To find a solution to this problem, we’ve adopted a participatory approach,” Dr Iris Bohnet, from CSIRO, said.

“We worked with the community and local industries to develop future visions which aim to achieve improved water quality as well as having multiple environmental, social and economic benefits.”

Details of the project were presented on the final day of the International Riversymposium in Brisbane, Queensland, this month.

On the same day, Senator Penny Wong, minister for climate change and water, and Senator Kim Carr, minister for science and research, announced a $50m research partnership between the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology to provide a state-of-the-art, national database on Australia’s water resources.

Opening the event three days earlier, senator Wong said: “We are all of us — whether in Australia or elsewhere — facing a future of serious challenges and what we know is that the penalties for inaction, or for inappropriate quick fixes, will be severe.

“The challenge is to manage water in our shared interests for the long term. We need long-term solutions for the communities in which live in, for our uniquely valuable rivers and wetlands, and for our way of life and prosperity.”

Kate Martin

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