The Value of on Farm Water Quality Monitoring.

The Mackay Whitsunday region boasts a strong history of water quality monitoring and proactive engagement focusing on the paddock and local creek scales. Farmers in this region continue to make significant strides in improving farm management practices to reduce off farm runoff.The LAND HUB project improves on farm decision-making through increased data access and utility, with three monitoring sites showcasing its benefits for growers. The project is part of the Mackay Whitsunday Water Quality Program, funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. This fact sheet explains the process of on farm water quality data collection and the benefits for growers.¬†

What is involved in monitoring?

Monitoring water quality paddock runoff provides valuable data to understand fertiliser, pesticide and sediment surface losses, allowing for more effective planning and retaining products on the paddock. It also serves as a benchmark for comparing different management practices and enhances our understanding of product losses from farms.Water quality monitoring has been instrumental in refining key management principles like timing, placement, product selection, and application rates. For instance, it helps predict potential paddock losses based on different product usage scenarios 

Key Messages:

What type of results can I expect and what are the limitations?

However, there can be uncertainties in these measurements, similar to uncertainties in any field or lab work. Scientists often include an “error bar” to show this uncertainty. Equipment problems, how water flows on the field, and difficulties in collecting samples can complicate the processing and interpretation of water quality results.

So, we must be cautious when interpreting field results, but the findings become stronger when we replicate the same field trial or conduct multiple trials over time with similar results.

What can farm monitoring data be used for?

Research shows improving water quality often leads to productive co-benefits, and having reliable data on the effectiveness of these practices empowers farmers to make informed decisions that benefit both the environment and their financial performance. The graph below provides an example of water quality monitoring that has quantified the benefits of various fertiliser formulations, applications, and placement.

Did you know?

Inshore seagrass meadows and coral reefs are some of the greatest ecosystems at risk from low water quality in the Mackay Whitsunday area. Round Top and Flat Top Islands, located less than 10 kms off Mackay’s shoreline, are particularly vulnerable to herbicide exposure and increased nutrients. The inner passage of the Whitsunday Island Group face water clarity and increased nutrient issues. Collectively reducing runoff from farms will directly improve the resilience and health of these ecosystems.

Results from paddock water quality monitoring.

This graph summarises results of a recent water quality trial, which measured paddock surface runoff losses of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) across different fertiliser formulations, types of application, and surface and subsurface placements. The data show reduced surface runoff losses from both subsurface and liquid fertiliser applications (modified from Armour et al. 2022).

If you want to learn more about the Land Hub program follow this link: