CASCADE: Hyacinth from upstream flows past the City as the Fitzroy River Barrage relieves the increase water-flow from Queensland's North.
CASCADE: Hyacinth from upstream flows past the City as the Fitzroy River Barrage relieves the increase water-flow from Queensland's North. Jack Evans

Fitzroy River: It's not perfect and it never will be

THE health of Australia's second biggest river system has been given a tick in the 2017-18 Fitzroy Basin Report Card.

The collective health of the Fitzroy Basin's aquatic ecosystem has been awarded a C grade for the second consecutive year.

The Fitzroy River itself received an overall grading of B.

While it may not sound like a positive score, the fact that the system has maintained the grade over the past two years is a positive, according to Dr Leigh Stitz.

The executive officer of the Fitzroy Partnership for River Health said the report card, which has been released for the past eight years, now helps the region to gain more of an understanding of the Fitzroy Basin waterways.

READ PREVIOUS YEARS' REPORT CARDS:

2016-17

2015-16

2014-15

2013-14

2011-12

2010-11

"We are getting a really good trend now, eight years is really good to get a good picture of the health across different types of stresses and impacts that we have in the basin so that is really exciting so see,” she said.

Addressing questions about whether a C grade is good enough for such a large river system, Dr Stitz said the fact that it is such a large system is one of the reasons it has scored the way it has.

"I think it is really important to remember that this is a working catchment,” she said.

"There is a lot of industry happening, a lot of agriculture, and a lot of good and bad stories within the basin.

"It is never going to be a pristine, perfect catchment and the basin itself is really reflecting that. We're never going to get an A unless we take it back to that pristine level that it was before anything ever happened there.”

The Fitzroy Basin Report Card for 2017-18 was released on Tuesday, with the basin receiving a C overall, and the Fitzroy Catchment and Estuary receiving a B.
The Fitzroy Basin Report Card for 2017-18 was released on Tuesday, with the basin receiving a C overall, and the Fitzroy Catchment and Estuary receiving a B. Fitzroy Partnership

The river's overall B grade, included a B for physical/chemical and nutrients, a C for toxicants, and an A for agricultural use.

There was insufficient data for an ecology grade.

The Fitzroy River estuary was graded with a B overall, it received a B for physical/chemical and ecology, and a C for nutrients.

Making history this year, the Lower Isaac is the first catchment to ever receive a grading of A for the physical/chemical category.

Excited to see the A grade in their Lower Isaac's physical/chemical category, Dr Stitz said it was a great thing to see such positive results.

"That means that it is hitting the benchmark of the water quality guidelines that we are hoping for,” he said.

Dr Roger Shaw, acting chair of the Independent Science Panel, agreed that while it was a great result to have one of the Fitzroy catchments perform so well in one of it's categories it was unlikely we would ever see such high grades in the Fitzroy River.

Acting Chair of the River Health Independent Science Panel Dr Roger Shaw and Executive Officer Dr Leigh Stitz.
Acting Chair of the River Health Independent Science Panel Dr Roger Shaw and Executive Officer Dr Leigh Stitz. Maddelin McCosker

"We have had so many land use changes over time that we have actually changed the eco-system,” he said.

"So when you want to look at what is the best attainable score, you really have to go to something that is a bit more pre-development.

"It's a good thing we are maintaining that score.”

Maintaining the same grade over a period of years, according to Dr Stitz, has actually made the Fitzroy Basin more resilient.

"We are able to see how resilient the basin is to shifts and changes in water quality that might occur.

"The management itself of the basin overall is plodding along really well, so we don't need to make any dramatic changes.

"Obviously need to be aware of using water appropriately and that sort of thing, but generally as far as the whole basin picture goes, we are doing really well and I think we should be really proud of our Fitzroy Basin.”

Grading Categories:

  • A - excellent
  • B - good
  • C - fair
  • D - Poor
  • E - Fail


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