IT'S heartening to see the Sunshine Coast's waterways showing improvement in the latest state of the waterways report.
The report shows improve- ment in the Maroochy and Mooloolah rivers and a slight decline for the Pumicestone Passage, despite the report saying the passage was of an "improved condition due to a decrease in pollutant loads".
Critically for the Coast, the report shows Noosa River remains the equal-best water- way in the state's south-east corner, along with the eastern section of Moreton Bay.
However, the overall scores measuring the health of each waterway were once again compromised by the new Waterways Benefits Rating.
The rating measures the social and economic benefits of waterways, which is more about the social usage of a body of water than the state of its environmental health.
To be sure, there is a place for the Waterways Benefits Rating. Just as measuring the usage of parks and open space can help guide governments in assigning resources to those parks, so the Waterways Benefits Rating can help direct needed resources to heavily used waterways.
However, that social usage and the health of an environ- mental system are two very different things. Think about the difference in water quality between, say, the Noosa River along Noosaville, filled with boats and lined with development, and the river in its upper reaches past Lake Cootharaba, surrounded by national park and used only by the odd kayak and canoe.
Which would you say was more heavily used, and which would you say was cleaner?
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