Three people in high-viz clothing working in a ditch on a farm
Construction of a bioreactor to reduce nitrates leaving the farm

Treatment systems are systems that use specific treatment processes to remove nutrients, sediments or other toxicants from run-off or shallow groundwater. They include:

  • vegetated drains
  • sediment basins
  • bioreactors
  • treatment wetlands.

These treatment systems  complement farm best-management practices to improve water quality in agricultural areas. A whole-of-system approach, including treatment systems, and wetland management or restoration, is needed to reduce pollutants, particularly nitrogen, in catchments flowing to the Great Barrier Reef.

The project is part of the Queensland Wetlands Program. It is delivered by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) to support the Queensland Government’s Queensland Reef Water Quality Program.

What we’re doing

The project builds on the extensive information already available. It focuses on increasing awareness, knowledge and adoption of systems and practices that use wetland treatment processes to improve water quality and sustainability in intensive agriculture. It promotes a ‘treatment train’ approach, involving:

  • best management practices that minimise agricultural run off
  • treatment systems that intercept and treat run-off or shallow groundwater on the farm
  • wetland management, or restoration in the catchment, to treat larger volumes of water.

Benefits of the project

Research demonstrates that well located, designed and managed treatment systems like bioreactors, treatment wetlands and vegetated drains can be cost-effective at reducing dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) in farm run-off, plus potentially other pollutants, like pesticides.

The role of natural wetlands

Natural wetlands in our catchments play an important role in improving water quality. But the use of wetlands for water-quality improvement should not impact:

  • the other ecosystem services they provide, like fish habitat and biodiversity
  • their social and cultural values.

This project works with producers and other stakeholders to promote and support the wise use and management of natural wetlands in agricultural areas, in line with the whole-of-system, values-based framework.

What’s next?

Through trials and extension activities, the project will continue to build knowledge and awareness about the use of different treatment systems on farms in the Reef catchment.

Find out more

Last updated: 24 Jul 2023