River Monitoring Project

A collaborative research project between Fitzroy River Water and the Cooperative Research Centre for Coastal Zone, Estuary and Waterway Management (CRCCZ) was carried out during 2001-2005.

The Fitzroy River estuary is an important natural feature of Rockhampton. The aesthetic and recreational amenities that it provides are highly valued by the community and the local government authorities. The CRCCZ was originally engaged on a major project on the nutrient and sediment dynamics of the whole Fitzroy estuary.

The ultimate goal is to develop a predictive model which can be used to explore different land uses and water management strategies in the catchment, particularly the consequences on the estuary. The project involves extensive measurements of nutrients, the light climate within the water column, sediment re-suspension and deposition with the aim to understand the processes controlling the physical and biological processes.

Fitzroy River Water’s involvement resulted from the desire to manage its operations with a proper concern for the environment and particularly the impact of its releases on the general ecological performance of the upper parts of the estuary (defined as stretching from the Nerimbera boat yard to the Barrage). To do this required a good understanding of the process together with reliable assessments of the scale of Fitzroy River Water's inputs compared with the natural inputs from the catchments upstream.

There were clear synergies between the objectives of the CRCCZ and Fitzroy River Water in understanding aspects of nutrient dynamics and the two organisations embarked on a collaborative project to intensify the data gathering work in the upper part of the estuary to address the specific requirements of Fitzroy River Water.

This drew on the more process-oriented work done by CRCCZ over the whole length of the estuary with results finding the sewerage treatment plant discharges having no discernible impact on the environmental values of the estuary.

It was found that background loads of the catchment and stormwater far exceeded that of the treatment plants and the natural processes of the ecosystem ensured it remained healthy and productive.