Skip links and keyboard navigation

Farm and waterway best management practices

Preventing pollutant loss through farm and waterway best management practices (BMPs) is an essential step in managing water quality. Farm and waterway BMPs improve water quality by minimising the loss of water and pollutants from production areas and other parts of the farm such as headlands, drains, riparian areas and wetlands. Best management practices are akey management intervention in the Whole-of-System, Values-based framework and a vital part of a treatment train.

Maintaining interrow groundcover is a best management practice. Photo by Queensland Government

Quick facts

Preventing and reducing
pollutants at the source is the priority for managing water quality[3].

Treatment systems for agriculture – Farm and waterway best management practices

Select from the tabs below

Farm and waterway BMPs are essential to minimise nutrient, sediment and pesticide leaving farms. Treatment trains for agricultural water quality improvement start with farm and waterway BMPs to ensure downstream waterways and wetlands are not adversely impacted:[1][2]

  1. Slow water flows, maximise water use efficiency and minimise the amount of water leaving the farm. This ensures efficient water use, minimises pollutant transport, reduces water velocity, minimises risk of erosion and downstream flooding.
  2. Reduce pollutants generated in the production area, such as nutrients and pesticides, excess to production requirements.
  3. To ensure downstream waterways and wetlands are not adversely impacted.

The role of treatment systems is to complement BMPs by filtering water leaving a farm, reducing pollutant loads, prior to the water entering natural waterways and wetlands.

Tips and tricks: Treatment systems are not designed to compensate for poor farm management practices and can be damaged, or not function efficiently, if overloaded by pollutants or by excessive water flows.

Farm and waterway BMPs to improve water quality in agricultural and aquaculture production systems include, but are not limited to:

  • nutrient management e.g. timing, application and matching fertilisers to crop requirements
  • water use efficiency e.g. irrigation method and timing and water reuse where possible
  • soil and sediment management e.g. minimum tillage, soil conservation, vegetated buffers, swales, and drains
  • weed and chemical management e.g. integrated weed management, spray drift management
  • grazing land and herd management e.g. stocking rates, spelling, controlling access to wetlands and waterways.
  • sustainable aquaculture management e.g. matching feed to production requirements.

Industry BMP programs

Cane industry field day about best practice herbicide management. Photo by Queensland Government.

Many industry organisations have developed BMP frameworks or guidelines and there are programs in place to support producers to adopt these frameworks. Follow the links below for the BMPs specific to major agricultural industries in Queensland:

Sugarcane: SmartCane BMP

Cotton: myBMP Cotton

Horticulture: Hort360

Banana: Banana BMP

Other: Queensland Farmers Federation Best Management Practice Programs

The grazing and grain industries in Queensland do not have formal BMP programs, with best management practices promoted online and through extension projects. For more information on grazing best management practices and extension see FutureBeef and GRASS.

The aquaculture industry also has programs covering sustainable production. The Australian Barramundi Farmers Association’s has the sustainably farmed barramundi certification program. Members of the Australian Prawn Farmers Association are certified through either of the two global aquaculture standards: Best Aquaculture Practice or Aquaculture Stewardship Council.

Environmental Regulations

Certain agricultural activities are regulated, particularly in Great Barrier Reef catchments.

Additional information

Farming and reef catchments

Best practice farming in the Great Barrier Reef catchments


  1. ^ Carey, BW, Stone, B, Norman, PL & Shilton, P (2015), Soil conservation guidelines for Queensland. [online], Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation, Brisbane. Available at:
  2. ^ Department of Employment, EDI (2011), Wetland Management Handbook: Farm Management Systems (FMS) guidelines for managing wetlands in intensive agriculture.. [online], Queensland Wetlands Program, Brisbane. Available at:
  3. ^ Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, (3 October 2015). Using the treatment train approach to BMP selection.. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 October 2018].

Last updated: 28 June 2022

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, Queensland (2022) Treatment systems for agriculture – Farm and waterway best management practices, WetlandInfo website, accessed 1 February 2024. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment, Science and Innovation