© WWF-Aus / Alexander Vail

Bleached coral on Lizard Island, Queensland © WWF-Aus / Alexander Vail

Water Quality

The Great Barrier Reef is abundant with iconic marine life. It’s within these amazing reef systems that incredible animals like sea turtles, whales and tropical fish travel and call home.


But the health of this important underwater ecosystem is under increasing threat.


What you can do to help



The Queensland Government has taken draft laws to Parliament to cut Reef pollution.

We need you to show your support for these laws, by 15th March, to give the Reef the clean water it needs to recover and protect it for future generations

Tell the Queensland Government that you strongly support new laws to ban outdated polluting farm practices that are harming our Reef.

Send your email by Friday, 15th March to: itdec@parliament.qld.gov.au

To be a valid submission you need to provide your full name, and either your mailing address or phone number.

Click here for more information on the submission



  • Climate change

    Half the corals on the Great Barrier Reef were lost in back-to-back bleaching events of 2016 and 2017, driven by climate change. When water temperatures in the sea are too warm, corals expel algae that live in their tissues, causing them to turn white.

    Though corals can survive bleaching events, the survivors become more vulnerable to crown of thorns starfish, disease and mortality.

  • Agricultural pollution

    Farm pollution is one of the greatest blights on water quality… but how can farming practices have an impact on the Great Barrier Reef?

    Chemical run-off from farming practices end up in the waters of the Reef. The pollution blocks sunlight and smothers corals and seagrass beds. Fertiliser run-off can also fuel algal blooms which overtake coral and drive crown of thorn starfish outbreaks.

  • Crown of thorns starfish

    Algae that feeds off nitrogen run-off are the prime food source for juvenile crown of thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci). This allows large numbers of starfish to become adults, which then feed on coral and eat their way through huge sections on the outer Reef.

    The fourth recorded outbreak of crown of thorns starfish is currently underway and is eating corals which survived recent bleaching events. By reducing fertiliser run-off, we can give our Reef the best chance for recovery.



© Lisa Bostrom Einarsson / WWF-Aus

Crown of thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) feeds on coral on the Great Barrier Reef © Lisa Bostrom Einarsson / WWF-Aus

Between 1985 and 2012, coral cover declined by over 50%.

The Great Barrier Reef has experienced some of the worst bleaching events in history, with 91% of corals found to have been bleached at least once during in the past two decades.

With so much of the coral already decimated by bleaching, protecting the remaining coral by controlling crown of thorns outbreaks and reducing sediment run-off from farms is vital for the Reef’s health.

© WWF-Australia

Sediment plumes in Gladstone Harbour, Queensland © WWF-Australia

Working to restore the Reef

WWF-Australia is working with Queensland farmers on Reef Safe farming practices to help reduce polluted run-off and carbon emissions.

Together we're working on solutions that keep our corals healthy, while helping our producers to farm sustainably.

Aerial view of Hardy Reef taken on 20 June 2017 to assess if the Heart Reef has been bleached © WWF-Aus / Christian Miller

Heart Reef on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia © WWF-Aus / Christian Miller

Improving water quality

Cutting run-off will help to stop future crown of thorns starfish outbreaks, and support coral gardens to recover from coral bleaching. We need strong laws which ban outdated high polluting practices. We also need a multi-billion dollar fund to repair Reef catchments and assist farmers to adopt cleaner, more profitable practices. 

Improving water quality will have multiple benefits. The benefits to the Reef are clear. It will ensure that coral is more abundant and stronger in the face of global warming, fishing, industrialisation and coastal development. A comprehensive water quality improvement program will boost agriculture and help secure the future of the tourism industry.

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