Sandy Creek is in the Plane catchment of the Mackay Whitsunday region and is considered a very high risk area for pesticides and a high risk area for nitrogen run-off (Reef 2050 WQIP 2017-2022). With a history of pesticide exceedances, improvement in water quality depends upon growers improving their land management practices.
The RP201C Sandy Creek – On farm change for water quality improvement project seeks to address the issue of unintended pesticide losses, predominantly from sugarcane farms, to manage the water quality impact pesticides pose to the receiving environment, both freshwater and marine including the Great Barrier Reef.
The RP201C project is the third iteration of the Sandy Creek project, and the first that involves Reef Catchments. The project supports landholders to collect their own water samples to increase understanding of what is driving losses and to identify solutions which will work for the landholders without impacting productivity. Samples have been collected in paddocks and within the surrounding creeks and waterways with the results taken back to the landholders. Building on this increased understanding, Mackay Area Productivity Services (MAPS) and Farmacist provide targeted extension services to support growers to addresses these losses. Where knowledge gaps are identified, trials are developed and undertaken by growers.
The RP201C project has taken on board learnings from past iterations of the Sandy Creek project and is now working intensively with growers within the sub-catchment of Brightly. By working with all growers within a confined catchment, it is hoped that water quality samples collected by landholders and an established auto sampler will be able to detect an improvement in the quality of the water leaving the sub catchment. One-on-one intensive extension support is being provided by Farmacist within Brightly.
Landholders outside of the Brightly sub-catchment, but still within the Sandy Creek catchment, are able to participate in the project, collect their own water samples and receive extension support from MAPS.
Previous Sandy Creek project phases (led by the Department of Environment and Science Water Quality Investigations team) have established trust in the water quality monitoring results and the relationship between on farm practices and water quality outcomes.
The Sandy Creek catchment has 350 cane farms occupying 20,500 hectares, which is approximately 50% of the catchment area.
The Sandy Creek project is funded through the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program and delivered by Reef Catchments.
More information on Plane Creek catchment can be found here.