Fresh water is a fundamental and limited resource, vital for the region’s social, ecological, economic and cultural sustainability. It also underpins the health of the region’s wetlands, those broad-ranging ecosystems that are wet for at least some period of time. See here for more information on wetlands.
The region’s freshwater asset comprises a diverse range of habitats associated with the major systems of the Burnett, Baffle, Kolan, Burrum and Mary catchments. There are also groundwater aquifers. Larger aquifers such as the Coastal Burnett, Three Moon Creek Water Supply Scheme, Cooloola Sandmass and the Mulgildie Management Area of the Great Artesian Basin, are managed through State legislation to protect their viability. Others, generally smaller and subject to reduced “irrigation take”, are not regulated but may be monitored. All of these habitats range from the sources of the region’s surface waterways to their estuaries; they incorporate water pathways (connections) across and through the land, as well as the interfaces between surface and groundwater, including the critical interface between fresh and marine water.
Good water quality is crucial for the health of aquatic ecosystems and for the provision of consumptive supplies for urban, industrial and irrigation use. The region’s major catchments flow into the receiving waters of Hervey Bay, the southern extremity of World Heritage Area Great Barrier Reef lagoon, and the Great Sandy Straits Ramsar site. Thus, the quality of water exiting the region’s river systems is crucial to maintenance of the natural values of these marine environments that are internationally recognised for their outstanding values.
The Burnett Basin is the largest in South East Queensland covering 3.7 million hectares and including both coastal and inland catchments. The Baffle Basin, located between Bundaberg and Gladstone, is relatively pristine with near natural flows throughout. It is recognised for its high ecological and nature conservation values. The southern major catchment, the Mary Basin, empties into the Great Sandy Straits Ramsar site and provides habitat for endangered and iconic species including the Mary River Cod, Mary River Turtle and Lungfish.
The region’s freshwater assets are defined using a combination of Wetland Mapping Classes (Dep’t Environment and Heritage Protection), Riparian Mapping and Groundwater Management Areas. Further delineation by geographic area (catchment) for most wetland classes captures the discrete differences in asset sensitivity and adaptive capacity across the region. The following table provides an overview of the region’s freshwater asset. A complete description is available in the background paper. There are twelve wetland types identified for the individual “basins” of the region. Each basin is identified by the final letter of the asset code, viz. a – Baffle Creek, b – Kolan River, c – Burnett River, d – Burrum River, e – Mary River, f – Coastal (Great Sandy Strait and Coastal Creeks).
For example FE2d below refers to coastal / sub-coastal floodplain grass, sedge and herb swamps in the Burrum River basin.