Upper Suttor River

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Subcatchments

Smaller Catchments within the Upper Suttor River Catchment include:

  • Suttor River
  • Rockingham Creek
  • Murray Creek
  • Brumby Creek
  • Blowfly Creek
  • Suttor Creek
  • Eaglefield Creek

Vegetation

Riparian Habitat

iTRARC analysis of Riparian Habitat indicates that this subcatchment has had a decline in riparian condition from good (B+) to poor (C) over the last 30 years. This is primarily due to clearing of floodplain vegetation for cropping. There has also been clearing along small headwater and anabranching streams too. The TRARC survey data supports this assessment with poor (C) overall condition. It is interesting to note that there is a wide range of on-ground conditions from poor through to very good.

iTRARC Scores

Catchment Class 2 A
Maximum iTRARC Score 24 (A+)
1970s Score 14 (B+)
2004 Score 4 (C)
Reduction in Ecosystem Services Very Large
Increase in Potential for Erosion Small
Reasons for Change in Score
  • Removal of vegetation adjacent to headwater and anabranching streams including forest
  • Substantial floodplain clearing including forest
  • Increased amount of bare soil on the floodplain

TRARC (field survey) scores

Survey SiteScoreRegenerationWeeds
Blow Fly Ck46.7 (D)0 (D)0 (A)
Suttor R, Teatree Waterhole53 (C)1 (C)0 (A)
Deep R54.2 (C)1 (C)0 (A)
Suttor R, Blackfellow Waterhole57.4 (C)0 (D)0 (A)
Suttor Ck [#1]59.4 (C)2 (B)1 sp: 2% cover (B)
Suttor Ck [#2]59.9 (C)2 (B)3 spp: 7% cover (D)
Bulgonunna Ck59.8 (C)2 (B)0 (A)
Eaglefield Ck61.8 (C)0 (D)0 (A)
Bulgrum Lagoon62.5 (C)2 (B)0 (A)
Suttor R [#1]68.7 (B)1 (C)0 (A)
Suttor R [#2]75 (B)2 (B)1 sp: 5% cover (B)
Sandy Ck81.2 (A)3 (A)0 (A)
Average 61.6 (C)

Reference:Assessing the condition of Riparian Vegetation in the Burdekin catchment

Wetlands

This sub-division is poorly known ecologically, with even basic knowledge on the significant waterbodies, not recorded. The system here includes numerous channels and off-channel waterbodies, and waterholes present are likely to be highly and persistently turbid. Condition is not well known, but is considered to be typical of sub-divisions in this area.

Reference: Assessing the condition of Wetlands in the Burdekin catchment

For more information see Upper Suttor River wetland condition summary

Water

SedNet Modelling of Water Quality

Model results for the Upper Suttor River subcatchment are summarized as follows:

  • Subcatchment modelled area 5,211 sq. km.
  • Source contributions: Hillslope = 65%; Gully = 19%; Streambank = 16%
  • Area of subcatchment with <50% ground cover: 2,687sq. km or 52% of subcatchment
  • Hillslope sediment supply: 214 kg/ha/yr
  • Total suspended sediment (flow weighted) supply: 171 kt/yr
  • Total suspended sediment supply (flow weighted; normalized to area): 328kg/ha/yr
  • Mean Annual Flow: 473,573 ML

Reference: Improved SedNet Modelling of Grazing Land in the Burdekin Catchment

Over half of the Upper Suttor River subcatchment has less than 50% ground cover, equivalent to approximately 2,687 sq. km. This is likely to account for the large contribution of sediments by hillslope erosion (65%), supplying the Upper Suttor River with approximately 214 kg/ha/yr of sediments and associated nutrients. The mean annual flow in this area of typically low rainfall is moderate to high, most likely a result of numerous creeks converging on the Suttor River in this subcatchment when seasonal rains occur.

Both gully and streambank erosion also contribute substantial amounts of sediment to the river in this subcatchment (19% and 16% respectively).

Water Quality Monitoring

The monitoring sites in the Upper Suttor River:

  • Suttor River (Highway) is located at the Bowen Developmental Road and has been sampled by the NRW/ ACTFR for 2 years. The catchment area for this monitoring site is 10,868 sq km, of which 86.3% is used for grazing and 10.6% for cropping.
  • Suttor River (on Pasha Station) is located upstream from the Bowen Developmental Road and has been sampled by the NQ Dry Tropics Volunteers program for 4 years. The catchment area for this monitoring site is 2,098 sq km, of which 96.2% is used for grazing. The Suttor River (Highway) site is designed to monitor the Suttor River Basin and incorporates the Logan Creek, Diamond Creek and Upper Suttor River sub-catchments. Therefore, this site is not suitable to investigate the specific water quality signals for the Upper Suttor sub-catchment. The Suttor River site on Pasha Station provides useful data to investigate water quality in the Upper Suttor sub-catchment. Suspended sediment concentrations at this site have been relatively high (mean concentration of 939 mg/L) compared to other sites within the Burdekin rangelands over the monitoring period. An annual flow-weighted load of 230,000 tonnes has been calculated using the monitoring data from the 2004/05 and 2006/07 wet seasons. This load is higher than the suspended sediment export predicted by the SedNet model of 171,000 tonnes.

    Relevant information of Water Quality Monitoring in the Suttor River Basin:

    Environmental Uses and Values

    Aquatic Ecosystems

    The aquatic ecosystem values of a very small area in the bottom west of the Upper Suttor River subcatchment, which corresponds to part of the Nairana National Park, has been identified as containing High Ecological Value (HEV) waters by the BWQIP ecological values technical panel. The aquatic ecosystem values of other parts of the subcatchment are considered to be Slightly to Moderately Disturbed (SMD) as a consequence of the surrounding land use for cattle grazing.

    The Suttor River and its tributaries are ephemeral streams with large waterholes fed from groundwater. This area shows some dryland salinity which is a potential threat that may require cessation of land clearing. Macro invertebrates have experienced moderate change along the whole river. Also, fish and water quality are moderately affected below the junction with the Belyando River.

    Stock Watering

    Water supply for production of healthy livestock.

    Visual Recreation

    Swimming, Fishing and camping have been identified activities along the Suttor River.

    Industrial Uses

    A gold and silver mine operated in Mount Coolon during three decades of the early 20th century.

    Drinking Water

    River water used for drinking with the population being scattered on pastoral holdings.

    Cultural and Spiritual

    Traditional owners are the Jangga and the Birri people. The Suttor River has been nominated as a “Heritage River”.

    References:

    Landuse

    Principle land uses within the Upper Suttor River subcatchment as a proportion of total area:

    • Grazing: 98.3%
    • Conservation & minimal use: 1.4%
    • Water: Limited water activity use identified.
    • Urban & semi urban: Limited urban & semi urban water activity use identified.
    • Dryland agriculture: Limited dryland agriculture water activity use identified.

    Grazing Land

    Upper Suttor River is a relatively large subcatchment where land use is almost exclusively grazing on natural and modified pastures.

    Land Condition

    Definition of ABCD land condition framework

    Results of a Rapid Land Condition Assessment (adopted from Hassett et al. 2000) are presented below. The assessment has been devised to subjectively characterise condition while traversing the BDT region by vehicle. The data are based on a total of 4666 observations across the Burdekin region between 2004 and 2007.

    The data were collected to provide independent information on land condition and provide a regional perspective. Resource assessment data are most useful when interpreted with other sources of data e.g. time-series remote sensing, modelling and water quality monitoring.

    The estimated condition of the Upper Suttor River sub-catchment is proportioned as follows:

    • A Condition: 13%
    • B Condition: 54%
    • C Condition: 30%
    • D Condition: 3%

    Data from the Upper Suttor River sub-catchment is based on 120 observations.

    On the basis of the rapid assessment, the Upper Suttor River sub-catchment is estimated to have the largest proportion of land in fair (B) condition (54%), followed by poor (C) condition (30%) and good (A) condition land (13%). 3% of observed land was in very poor (D) condition.

    Ground Cover

    Ground Cover in the Upper Suttor River sub-catchment is proportioned as follows:

    • ( BC) Bare Cover: 0%
    • ( LC) Low Cover: 8%
    • ( MC) Moderate Cover: 29%
    • ( HC) High Cover: 53%
    • (VHC) Very High Cover: 9%

    Data from the Upper Suttor River sub-catchment are based on 118 observations.

    On the basis of the rapid assessment (2004-2007), the Upper Suttor River sub-catchment is estimated to have the highest proportion of land within the high (HC) ground cover category (53%), followed by moderate (MC) cover (29%) and very high (VHC) cover (9%) categories. 8% of land was estimated to fall into the low cover (LC) category.

    Resource Condition Summary

    Upper Suttor River is a relatively large subcatchment where land use is almost exclusively grazing on natural and modified pastures. The riparian habitat of the subcatchment has deteriorated over the last 30 years, principally due to clearing along headwater streams and on the floodplains, and is currently assessed to be in poor (C) condition. Field assessments identify a wide range of on-ground conditions from poor through to very good. The subcatchment waterways are poorly known ecologically, with even basic knowledge on the number and location of permanent or significant water bodies not recorded. The waterways are understood to include numerous in-channel and off-channel water bodies that are likely to be highly and persistently turbid.

    Hillslope erosion is identified by models as the major source of sediment and particulate nutrients affecting water quality within the Upper Suttor River subcatchment, while both gully and streambank erosion are also identified as significant contributors to the total sediment load. The rate of soil erosion is predicted to be quite low and below the Basin average, while the total soil loss from the subcatchment to waterways is relatively high due to the large area of the subcatchment. Land condition is assessed as having a high proportion in fair (B) condition, while poor (C) and good (A) condition grazing land is also apparent. This is also reflected in the rapid ground cover assessment (2004-07). Analyses of ground cover from satellite imagery identify areas of vulnerable and marginal 'D' condition land in the middle reaches of Verbana and Eaglefield Creeks, and the Suttor River.

    Water quality in the Upper Suttor River subcatchment is predicted by models to be moderately impacted by suspended sediment during wet season event flows, with elevated concentrations at the end-of-subcatchment. However, the sediment load at end-of-catchment is derived not only from this subcatchment, but also from others entering upstream. Water quality monitoring data from below the confluence with Suttor Creek have recorded much higher sediment concentrations and loads than predicted by models.

    Draft Environmental Values

    A very small area in the bottom west of the Upper Suttor River subcatchment, which corresponds to part of the Nairana National Park, has been identified as containing High Ecological Value (HEV) waters by the BWQIP ecological values technical panel. The aquatic ecosystem values of other parts of the subcatchment are considered to be Slightly to Moderately Disturbed (SMD) as a consequence of the surrounding land use for cattle grazing. The human use Environmental Values of the Carmichael River subcatchment are understood to include recreation (swimming, boating and visual appreciation), stock watering, human consumption, industrial use (mining), and the cultural and spiritual values of the Jangga and Birri traditional owners.

    Maps

    References

  • UpperSuttorRiver.jpg
    Download Catchment Layer as *.kml (requires Google Earth)

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