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Frequently asked questions

What is a catchment?

A catchment is an area with a natural boundary (typically formed by ridges, hills or mountains) within which all surface water drains from higher areas to a common creek or river channel at the bottom.

Larger catchments are made up of smaller areas called sub-catchments. Saltwater Creek Catchment is a sub-catchment of the larger Cairns Urban Catchment.

What is the urban water cycle and how does it differ from the natural water cycle?

The natural water cycle is a continuing process of evaporation, condensation, precipitation and groundwater influence, as water moves naturally from the oceans and rivers to the atmosphere and land. This natural cycle still occurs in towns and cities but is impacted by people and development.

The urban water cycle is ‘man made’ created to provide drinking water to homes and businesses, to remove wastewater and sewage, and redirect stormwater away from homes and businesses and into our waterways.

What is stormwater and how does it impact on the Great Barrier Reef?

Stormwater is the run-off from rain that falls on a roof or paved area like a driveway, road or footpath. This water flows into a stormwater drain that eventually ends up in the ocean.

In Cairns, stormwater is not treated and everyone has a role to play in keeping pollutants out of the stormwater system to ensure the long term health of our rivers and creeks and the Great Barrier Reef.

What is Cairns Regional Council doing to ensure that stormwater doesn’t impact on the Great Barrier Reef?

Cairns’ stormwater drainage network is a combination of pits, pipes, open channels and natural waterways which is continually developed, managed and maintained by Council.

Cairns Regional Council is committed to ensuring that its waterways are healthy and water run-off from river catchments in the region does not negatively impact the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. The Smart Catchments project is working towards supporting that commitment through improved and innovative water quality monitoring tools.

How will the Smart Catchments project monitoring tools differ to current monitoring methods used by Council?

Cairns Regional Council currently has a water monitoring program for Saltwater Creek. This involves regularly taking samples of water, manually at identified sites. These samples are then tested by hand at a lab. Environment officers are looking for any changes in the quality of the water to understand what has caused the change, what impact that change may have and if action needs to be taken to mitigate that impact.  Lab tests can take up to two-weeks.

The technology being utilised in the Smart Catchments project pilot includes next-generation sensors. These sensors automatically and immediately send the data to a connected ‘gauging station’ that allows officers to read data in near real time, doing away with the two-week wait for lab tests. This will then inform immediate management processes to ensure the quality of stormwater is the best it can be and not impact on the health of the community or the Great Barrier Reef.

What are the greatest threats to the Great Barrier Reef and how can I help?

Sediments, nutrients and pesticides are the three biggest pollutants that affect the health of the Great Barrier Reef, all of these can be found in creeks and rivers that flow out to the Great Barrier Reef.  See how you can help reduce all these around your home, workplace and school and so help the reef.

Who is funding the Smart Catchments Saltwater Creek project?

The Australian Government has contributed $827,000 toward the $1.65 million project under its Smart Cities and Suburbs funding program. Cairns Regional Council, James Cook University, Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways and Itron Australasia are providing the remainder.

Who is delivering the Smart Catchments project?

The Smart Catchments: Saltwater Creek study is led by Cairns Regional Council in partnership with James Cook University, the Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways Partnership and Itron Australasia. Find out more about the project partners.

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Last updated: 16 June 2020