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Case Study

Revitalising Water Quality in the Great Barrier Reef

KISTERS provides sustainable nitrogen reduction through online sensor monitoring.


Related Topics

Water Quality Monitoring

Environmental Management


The Queensland Government is committed to safeguarding the Great Barrier Reef to ensure its long-term survival. Enhancing reef water quality has emerged as a top priority in this endeavour. Among the various factors impacting the Reef’s health, the reduction of pollutant run-off into local waterways, specifically sediment, nutrients and pesticides, is identified as a critical aspect affecting the well-being of coral and seagrass ecosystems.

By utilising TRiOS sensors, the Department of Environment and Science (DES) can collect precise measurements of nitrate and leverage these data to collaborate with growers, industry and tourism in optimising and reducing nitrogen outputs.


Traditionally, the comprehensive monitoring of nitrate levels in water bodies has been hampered by logistical restraints around the collection of discrete water samples, as well as by in-stream parameters such as turbidity, particularly in catchments prone to flooding. These issues make it challenging to obtain reliable and high-quality nitrate data, hindering effective environmental management.


Meeting this challenge, DES adopted TriOS OPUS sensors supplied by KISTERS. These sensors utilise a full-spectrum range capability that allows them to accurately account for disturbances such as turbidity, ensuring accuracy in nitrate monitoring. This feature proves to be especially valuable in catchments prone to flooding, where turbidity is a significant concern. Moreover, the OPUS sensors can be equipped with wipers, enabling them to be installed in catchments for extended periods without the need for frequent servicing.

This deployment flexibility ensures consistent monitoring over months, significantly reducing maintenance requirements. Furthermore, the data collected by the OPUS sensors, including the status of the sensor, can be easily accessed remotely. The sensors provide output options via RS232/MODBUS and SDI-12, enabling users to remotely view the collected data and monitor the sensor’s performance, simplifying the process of data analysis and decision-making.


Through the ongoing engagement between DES and KISTERS, significant progress has been achieved in monitoring water quality in the Great Barrier Reef catchments. The deployment of TriOS Opus sensors has allowed for continuous measurement of nitrate levels at high frequency, providing a comprehensive understanding of nitrate concentrations entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon from the monitored catchments.

These real-time data empower stakeholders to help them make informed decisions and take proactive measures to mitigate the impacts of nitrate pollution on the Great Barrier Reef. By monitoring and managing nitrate levels effectively, the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan can work towards reducing nutrient pollution and protecting the delicate balance of the reef ecosystem.

The TriOS OPUS sensors have allowed us to accurately measure and report on nitrate concentrations in near real-time across catchments covering more than 1500km of the Queensland coastline in GBR Catchments. This has enabled an ongoing conversation with industry and landholders about nitrate movement within the monitored catchments.

– Ben Ferguson, Senior Scientist, DES
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