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Water quality offsets
About the policy
The Point Source Water Quality Offsets Policy (the policy) is now available. It replaces earlier 2014 and 2017 draft policies.
A Draft Point Source Water Quality Offsets Guideline 2019 is also available to assist in interpretation of the policy.
The Point Source Water Quality Offsets Policy 2019 (the policy) describes how existing or potentially new environmental authority (EA) holders under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act) can offset the water quality impacts of wastewater discharge to receiving waters.
It outlines how water quality offsets may be adopted as a voluntary option for managing environmentally relevant activities (ERAs) releasing wastewater containing prescribed offset contaminants (nitrogen, phosphorus and suspended solids) into receiving waters.
The policy provides alternative investment options to meet wastewater discharge requirements through the inclusion of water quality offset conditions that deliver an improvement in water quality in the receiving waters.
It provides guidance to EA holders for prescribed ERAs (e.g. sewage treatment plants, quarries, abattoirs and aquaculture operations) and resource ERAs who voluntarily consider implementing water quality offsets to counterbalance proposed increased wastewater discharge loads to receiving waters. The policy also applies to new EAs.
Following the strengthening of Reef protection regulations under the EP Act, the policy provides proponents of new industrial development the opportunity to propose an offset to avoid additional nutrient and sediment release into the Great Barrier Reef receiving waters.
The policy is in accordance with the management hierarchy under the Environmental Protection (Water and Wetland Biodiversity) Policy 2019 (that is, avoid, mitigate, offset and with no environmental harm caused to the receiving waters environmental values).
The following offsets applications are excluded under the policy:
- where an ERA directly impacts receiving waters identified as high ecological value under the Environmental Protection (Water and Wetland Biodiversity) Policy 2019
- where an ERA directly impacts prescribed environmental matters under the Environmental Offsets Act 2014
- where offset sites are located in Aquaculture Development Areas identified under a local government planning scheme.
Water quality offsets provide an opportunity to achieve both improved environmental outcomes and improvements in receiving waters water quality, whilst avoiding environmental harm to the receiving waters environmental values.
For further information, please email the Healthy Waters Policy and Strategy Team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Your responses may be subject to a Right to Information application.
Frequently asked questions
What has changed from the 2014 policy?
The 2019 policy provides additional flexibility compared with the 2014 policy in relation to:
- offsets in adjacent catchments (with common receiving waters)
- upstream or downstream of a point source release
- expanding the application to include sediment offsets in addition to nutrients
- offsets locations—includes locations under other planning frameworks, such as the Land Restoration Fund, to achieve biodiversity and water quality co-benefits.
What are examples of water quality offset types?
Examples of water quality offset types may include:
- riparian area restoration,
- streambank and gully restoration,
- constructed or remediated wetlands,
- bioremediation technology (point source)
The Queensland Urban Utilities (QUU) pilot offset project is an example of a water quality offset where an eroded streambank was repaired. Images show a section of the Logan River where the offset is located close to the Beaudesert sewage treatment plant. The top image shows flood effects following ex-tropical cyclone Debbie on an eroded streambank adjacent to the QUU offset. Lower image shows the intact QUU repaired streambank.