The Urban Water Stewardship Framework (UWSF) is a way to assess how regional councils manage urban water across the Great Barrier Reef region compared to best practice guidelines. Urban water management can include stormwater, sewage wastewater and sediment runoff from urban development. It was developed by the Office of the Great Barrier Reef and World Heritage, Queensland Department of Environment and Science, and delivered by the Regional Report Card Partnerships, with the goal of driving behaviour change and improving water quality outcomes.

As part of the UWSF process, Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership Executive Officer Jaime Newborn visited each regional council in our reporting area to discuss the latest assessment results and connect on local water quality management issues. Images from left: (1) Isaac Regional Council’s Manager of Liveability and Sustainability, Mick St Clair, (2) Mackay Regional Council Executive Leadership Team, (3) Cr Clay Bauman, and Whitsunday Regional Council Manager of Natural Resources and Climate, Scott Hardy.


The Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan (WQIP) applies to all land-based water pollution that affects water quality in the Great Barrier Reef catchments, including urban and industrial land use, along with agriculture.

Being able to assess the effectiveness of land use management in urban areas within the Great Barrier Reef catchments is a desired outcome of the Reef 2050 WQIP, as is fostering innovation and improvement in point source pollution management. While the amount of nutrients and sediment entering the Great Barrier Reef from urban areas is relatively small compared to runoff from agricultural land, it potentially represents a locally significant impact if not managed effectively.


Data is collected on each council in the Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership reporting area – Mackay, Whitsunday and Isaac regional council – through a series of workshops. Workshops are attended by officers with expertise in land use planning, compliance, catchment management, development approval, civil engineering, asset management and wastewater treatment. At each workshop, personnel from each council provide information and cite evidence on their practices within three management components:

  • Developing Urban: construction phase activities relating to erosion and sediment control and the design and installation of stormwater treatment systems.
  • Established Urban: stormwater infrastructure in already developed areas.
  • Point Source: wastewater treatment facilities and linked sewer networks.

Initial ratings for each component are discussed as a group until consensus is reached, with both the initial and final ratings recorded.


The grade shown here is the based on assessments undertaken in 2020-21. More recent assessments were completed in early 2023, and the grades from those workshops will be released in 2024.

Urban Water Stewardship Framework 2021 Grade Coaster
The 2020-21 Urban Water Stewardship Framework result for the Mackay, Whitsunday and Isaac regional councils (combined result).


The UWSF allows the regional Report Card Partnerships the opportunity to connect with local councils on water quality management-related issues, providing potential linkages between regional Report Card data and management practice change. As part of the UWSF, the results are presented to each local government to discuss options and opportunities for improving urban water management.