Science Week: What’s up with the Fitzroy River?

G’day guys Adam here. Here in Australia
we live on the driest inhabited continent on the face of the earth with
people mainly living in the capital cities, but some of us in the regions. The
continent is made up of over 200 freshwater catchments, each with their
own unique personalities. Some are really wet and some are really dry. But most are
somewhere in between most of you will be familiar with the Murray Darling system –
it’s like Grant Denyer, always seems to be popping up on our TV.
Unlike Grant, it’s our largest and most productive catchment riddled with its
issues. The main one I can see from afar without talking to the people involved
is that there’s way too much water held upstream inefficiently often to the
highest bidder which means there isn’t enough for the downstream communities.
But today guys I don’t want to talk to you about the Murray Darling, instead I’d
like to introduce you to Central Queensland’s largest catchment and
indeed the largest catchment to drain into the Great Barrier Reef –
the mighty Fitzroy River – Darumbal Country. Our major problem up here is in a
lack of water downstream, it is a case of way too much water downstream and
nowhere near enough upstream the river on average discharges approximately five
thousand nine hundred gigalitres of freshwater to the reef or more simply 12
Sydney Harbours. In 2011, however, we had one of the largest flooding events on
record with 3.8 billion gigalitres entering the reef. Again more simply 7600
Sydney Harbours. To top that off on average the Fitzroy discharges about a
Megaton of soil a year which equates to about a billion kilograms or if you will
a hundred thousand truckloads. If the trucks were to form a line it would
be from Brisbane to Mackay bumper-to-bumper. Estimates of sediment
transport they vary widely, but I reckon any sediment entering the reef that is
originated from our farms is just way too much. The sediment carries with it
nutrient, pesticides, herbicides and plastics – all damaging to the reef and
its inhabitants. The sediment also buries our coastal
marine sea grasses and corals which are essential habitats for the majority of
our juvenile species. The freshwater goes even further afar
venturing hundreds of kilometres up the coast introducing nutrient and chemicals
to the reef, throwing out the balance of the system. So what are we left with?
It’s farmland scoured of much-needed soils; the water has no time to soak into
the environment; instead it simply rushes downstream and ends up in a place it’s
not meant to be, burying a national treasure. But guys I’m an optimist. Our
River and reef they’re resilient just like us water in Australia and indeed
the world is a precious commodity so why allow it to simply pollute our
Great Barrier Reef. The sediments in the catchment are ancient, some of the oldest
in the world and needed by our landscape and farmers, so why simply allow them to
bury our beautiful sea grasses and corals. We need to find a balance to give
back the river and its farmers some of the water and sediment and give the reef
some relief. Over the next few months join me in a series of podcasts we will
talk to traditional owners fishermen farmers and academics all focused on
trying to improve our current situation. I think together we can become a more
productive and predictable catchment whilst improving water quality to the
reef, allowing it to do its thing guys like it has for thousands of years. So
let’s work together to help keep the Barrier Reef great. If you’re having any
interest in farming, mining or our aquatic environments and want to study
your support CQU, you get in contact with us in the link below and tell them
Adam sent you!

4 thoughts on “Science Week: What’s up with the Fitzroy River?

  1. Thanks, Adam. Good introduction! Sophia from Dr Ashwath's class 😀

  2. The question is, can this amount of water be properly supporting areas where are going to be compromised by mining activities…? .Thank you very much.

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