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The $8.2 billion water bill to clean up the Barrier Reef by 2025 – and where to start

John Rolfe writes in The Conversation (12.8.16) about the multi-billion dollar cost to repair damage done to the Great Barrier Reef by sediment runoff, according to a new study.

‘In 2015, the Australian and Queensland governments agreed on targets to greatly reduce the sediment and nutrient pollutants flowing onto the Great Barrier Reef.

‘What we do on land has a real impact out on the reef: sediments can smother the corals, while high nutrient levels help to trigger more regular and larger outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish. This damage leaves the Great Barrier Reef even more vulnerable to climate change, storms, cyclones and other impacts.

‘Dealing with water quality alone isn’t enough to protect the reef, as many others have pointed out before. But it is an essential ingredient in making it more resilient. The water quality targets call for sediment runoff to be reduced by up to 50% below 2009 levels by 2025, and for nitrogen levels to be cut by up to 80% over the same period. But so far, detailed information about the costs of achieving these targets has not been available.

‘Both the Australian and Queensland governments have committed more funding to improve water quality on the reef. In addition, the Queensland government established the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce, a panel of 21 experts from science, industry, conservation and government, led by Queensland Chief Scientist Geoff Garrett and funded by Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.’

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