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Farm and waterway best management practices

Preventing pollutant loss through farm and waterway best management practices (BMPs) is an essential first step in managing water quality in agricultural production systems. Farm and waterway BMPs improve water quality by minimising the loss of water and pollutants from agricultural production areas and other parts of the farm such as headlands, drains, riparian areas and wetlands. Agricultural industries have BMP programs in place to promote farm and waterway BMP and support producers to adopt best management practices.

Vegetated swale interrow. Photo by Queensland Government

Quick facts

management of stormwater water quality must begin with pollution prevention[3].


Farm and waterway BMPs are necessary to minimise the loss of pollutants and water from production areas and other parts of the farm. All treatment trains for agricultural water quality improvement must start with farm and waterway BMPs, for three main reasons[1][2].

  1. To slow down and minimise the amount of water leaving the farm for efficient water use, to minimise pollutant transport, reduce water velocity, minimise risk of erosion and reduce the risk of downstream flooding.
  2. To reduce the amount of pollutants generated on farm, such as nutrients and pesticides excess to crop requirements.
  3. To prevent overloading, and damage, of treatment systems.

Even with complete adoption of BMPs, some pollutants are likely to be lost. The role of treatment systems is to filter the water leaving a farm, to further reduce the pollutant load, prior to the water entering natural waterways and wetlands. 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 production systems include, but are not limited to:

  • nutrient management e.g. timing, application and matching nutrients to crop requirements
  • water use efficiency e.g. irrigation method and timing
  • soil and sediment management e.g. minimum tillage, soil conservation, vegetated buffers and swales
  • 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.

Agricultural Industry BMP programs

Industry organisations have developed BMP frameworks 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:

Bank revegetation on a banana farm. Photo by Queensland Government.

Plant industries:

Sugarcane: SmartCane BMP

Grains: Grains BMP

Cotton: BMP Cotton

Horticulture: Hort360

Banana: Banana BMP

Nursery: Nursery Industry Accreditation Scheme (NIASA)

Animal Industries

Grazing: Grazing BMP

Dairy: Dairying Better ‘n Better

Meat Chicken: EMS


In addition to the standard disclaimer located at the bottom of the page, please note the content presented is based on published knowledge of treatment systems. Many of the treatment systems described have not been trialled in different regions or land uses in Queensland. The information will be updated as new trials are conducted and monitored. If you have any additional information on treatment systems or suggestions for additional technologies please contact us using the feedback link at the bottom of this page.


  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: 5 October 2018

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2018) Farm and waterway best management practices, WetlandInfo website, accessed 13 May 2021. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science