Water quality guidelines for the Great Barrier Reef

Marine ecosystems require good quality water to remain healthy. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has prepared Water Quality Guidelines for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (2010) with trigger levels for specific pollutants. If levels are outside the guidelines it is a prompt for managers to take action.

The guidelines focus on sediments, nutrients and pesticides – the main catchment run-off pollutants that affect water quality reaching the Great Barrier Reef. For other guidelines look to the Queensland Water Quality Guidelines 2009 and then to the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality 2000.

The current condition of the Great Barrier Reef waters show that it meets the guidelines much of the time in most areas. However there are times when, and for our coastal waters in particular, guidelines are outside what is best for the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

Government, industry and the community are undertaking a number of actions to improve the quality of the water, including those under Reef Rescue and the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority also manages a comprehensive water quality and ecosystem health marine monitoring program which regularly reports on the status of water quality.

In particular, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority works with agricultural industries to foster best farm management practices that ensure the long-term viability of the sector as well as that of the Great Barrier Reef.

The key to success will be continuing to work with people who take the on-ground actions needed to ensure guidelines are met.