The arteries of our landscape and the lifeblood of our land, our creeks, rivers, and wetlands are critical to Queensland’s livelihoods, lifestyles, and sustainable growth.
These waterways provide us with clean drinking water, irrigation water, and a convenient means of wastewater disposal. They underpin our agricultural and horticultural industries, and strongly influence the productivity of several important fisheries. Also, they provide a wide variety of leisure, tourism and recreational opportunities for Queenslanders and visitors alike.
The health of our waterways is intrinsically liked to the health of our catchments. During the past two decades the condition of our waterways has become a key area of focus for both community and government. Regular reporting on the ecological condition of waterways through programs such as the Healthy Waterways Report Card and the Great Barrier Reef Paddock to Reef Program have highlighted that many of Queensland’s rivers and catchments are in moderate or poor condition as a result of historical land clearing, increasing urbanisation, and unsustainable land management practices.
This information has led to significant concern for the health and future of our waterways and has highlighted the need to improve their condition and resilience: particularly in the face of a changing climate where we can expect hotter temperatures, increased evaporation, less rainfall, but more intense storm events.
We recognise that problems 100 or more years in the making may take decades to repair. With this in mind, we are seeking a strategic, collaborative and long-term approach to improving waterway health across Queensland. Notwithstanding, immediate action is required. Recent media around the plight of the Great Barrier Reef and the impact of catchment runoff on the health of the inshore lagoon highlights the urgent need for clear, effective water policy, and sufficient funding to implement practical, cost-effective management solutions.
In the longer term, effective waterway improvement programs can deliver a positive return on investment by providing more secure, more affordable drinking water through active catchment management and revegetation, which improves infiltration rates and water quality, and reduces treatment costs. Such investment offers numerous additional benefits such as a reduction in sediment and nutrient pollution, an increase in carbon-sequestering vegetation and habitat connectivity, and an increase in biological diversity – both within and beside a watercourse.
Queensland’s creeks, rivers and wetlands are constantly changing environments that are replenished by rainfall and runoff. As a result, they have a tremendous capacity to be restored to a healthy state, but only if we make the necessary policy and management changes to promote and encourage this natural resilience.