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2023 Waterways Report Card release

How healthy are Townsville’s rivers, creeks, and coasts?
State of local waters revealed.

20 July 2023

The Townsville Dry Tropics Waterways Report Card is released today, grading the health of the region’s rivers, creeks, and coastal waters. 
Results show wins for waterway habitats, high litter pressure on Orpheus Island, and a poor grade for water quality in the Bohle River basin.  

“Whether walking the Ross, fishing at Pallarenda, dog-strolling the Strand, or swimming in Crystal or Alligator creeks — Townsville’s heart is half-made of water,” says Kara-Mae Coulter-Atkins, Executive Officer of the Dry Tropics Partnership for Healthy Waters.

“Healthy waters are essential for our town to thrive. The Report Card shows where our creeks and catchments are in balance, and the waterways that require our attention. It’s an invaluable tool for anyone with a stake in the future of our region’s waters.”

The independent Report Card gives grades for waterways across the Townsville and wider region, including the Ross and Black Catchments, the Bohle River, Halifax and Cleveland Bays, Magnetic Island, and the region’s Offshore Marine Zone.

A snapshot of 2023 Report Card results:

  • Most sub-basins in both the Ross and Black catchments receive ‘good’ or ‘very good’ grades for water quality.
  • The freshwater sub-basins for Townsville’s favourite swimming holes — Crystal, Rollingstone, and Alligator Creeks — all receive ‘good’ grades for both water quality and habitat.
  • The Bohle River freshwater sub-basin, however, receives a ‘D: poor’ grade in the Report Card for the fourth year in a row, due to high levels of nutrients.
  • Litter pressure is ‘very high’ on Orpheus Island, and ‘high’ at Horseshoe Bay and Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
  • Seagrasses in Cleveland Bay have almost recovered to pre-flood (2019) conditions.
  • Townsville’s Offshore Marine Zone was graded ‘B: good’ for coral habitat — its highest grade since the Report Card’s beginning.
  • Townsville City Council has gone from a C to B grade for its urban water stewardship.

Get the 2023 Waterways Report Card
See the Key Insights
Access the Technical Report

“The Dry Tropics Partnership for Healthy Waters keeps watch on Townsville’s vital waterways,” says Partnership Chair, Dr Keith Noble.

“If we’re going to see our town prosper and defend our UNESCO World Heritage-listed Reef from further decline, our rivers and catchments must remain front of mind. Everything we do, from farming to building to gardening, has flow-on effects on our waterways — we are all responsible for the health of our waters.”

Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Leanne Linard, commended the Partnership on the release of its 2023 Report Card.

“It’s wonderful to see the collaboration across government, industry and community, working together to better understand and protect the health of local waterways,” Ms Linard said.

“Healthy waterways deliver many benefits for the local community and are vital to the health of the Great Barrier Reef. That’s why the Palaszczuk Government is providing $1.25 million for Reef Regional Waterway Partnerships this year, part of a $3.75 million commitment over three years.”

Port of Townsville CEO Ranee Crosby says the data collated in the Report Card provides valuable insights for organisations wanting to do their bit to protect, preserve and improve the region’s shared waterways:

“The Report Card gives us a more holistic view of the Dry Tropics’ water story than any of its contributors could compile alone. It is wonderful to exchange information with a growing number of partners, so that we may all deepen our knowledge base, keep the broader public informed, and collaborate on meaningful actions for the whole region.”

Champions of the Bohle

In a series of case studies, the Dry Tropics Partnership for Healthy Waters is celebrating the efforts of the Townsville organisations and individuals already at work to improve the health of the Bohle Basin. ‘Champions of the Bohle‘ include Townsville City Council, Ausfield Services, OzFish Unlimited, TIDY Up Townsville, Coastal Dry Tropics Landcare, and the Reef Assist program.

“We’re encouraging Townsville residents to #BackTheBohle,” says the Dry Tropics Partnership’s Executive Officer. “This means getting smarter about water, using less of it on the garden, avoiding washing surfaces like roads and bare dirt; and keeping pollutants and litter off the ground.”

Community event — 20 July — Healthy Waters Arvo

To mark the release of the 2023 Waterways Report Card, the Townsville community is invited to Healthy Waters Arvo, an event at 2.30 to 5pm today (Thursday 20 July) on The Strand between the Tobruk Pool and Townsville Sailing Club.

The afternoon promises native animal encounters, a free sausage sizzle, water science demonstrations, games for kids, and learning from leading waterways organisations.
An Info Sheet is available here.


  • Kara-Mae Coulter-Atkins: Executive Officer, Dry Tropics Partnership for Healthy Waters
  • Dr Keith Noble: Chair, Dry Tropics Partnership for Healthy Waters


Sam Gibbs: Communications Officer, Dry Tropics Partnership for Healthy Waters | 0416 117 294