26 May 2016


WWF-Australia today warned about major impacts on the Great Barrier Reef from proposed new or upgraded dams.

The dams are a step closer after the Federal Government today announced funding for feasibility studies for 14 water infrastructure across Queensland. Six of the proposed dams are in Reef catchment areas. 

They are: Lakelands irrigation area (Cape York), Southern Atherton Tablelands development scheme, Burdekin Falls Dam raising, Urannah Dam, Dalrymple (Hells Gate), and the Lower Fitzroy River Infrastructure Project.

An analysis by WWF-Australia estimates these projects would trigger more land clearing, more soil erosion and more chemical use, mostly for sugar cane, in an additional 355,000 hectares of intensive land use.

That would generate 291,090 additional tonnes of sediment pollution and 2,528 additional tonnes of nitrogen pollution.

“We believe we can have increased agricultural productivity and a healthy Reef," WWF spokesperson Nick Heath said.

“However we’re already failing to handle pollution from existing farms without adding to the problem."

“The additional farm run-off, as a result of these new dams, would cast extreme doubt that Australia could meet pollution reduction targets promised to UNESCO."

“Dams are outdated and uneconomic – we should be investing in innovative agricultural practices on existing farms which boost production while cutting pollution.”

Yesterday Queensland Chief Scientist Geoff Garrett warned that if poor water quality was not addressed the Reef would be “stuffed with a capital S”.

“To borrow a phrase from the Chief Scientist – if these dams go ahead the Reef will be even more stuffed with a capital S,” Mr Heath said.

“They will hammer the Reef with big increases in sediment and fertiliser pollution."

Australia has committed to the World Heritage Committee to reduce nitrogen run-off by up to 80% and sediment run-off by up to 50% by 2025.

Sediment pollution harms coral and seagrass. Fertiliser pollution causes outbreaks of coral-eating crown of thorns starfish and makes coral more susceptible to bleaching.

WWF-Australia Media Contact: Mark Symons, Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571, msymons@wwf.org.au