Tackling salinity in the basin

By Neil Andrew, Chair of Murray–Darling Basin Authority

If there is one issue that brings people across the Basin together, it’s the importance of managing salinity. Anyone working in natural resources knows the damage salinity can do to the environment and to agriculture.

I am particularly passionate about this issue, both from my experience as a citrus farmer in the early 1980s, and in my current role as MDBA Chair.

Tackling salinity is a big success story of our time — all governments and agencies, including the MDBA and its predecessors, have worked with Basin communities over the last 30 years to tackle it.

Chair of Murray–Darling Basin Authority, Neil Andrew.

I was pleased to attend the Mildura Field Days in May 2017 to release our Salt of the Earth video, which tells the story of salinity in Australia and how it is being managed today.

The way our continent was formed means we have saline ground water and soils. Land clearing for dry land farming and irrigated agriculture production over the last century has mobilised those salt deposits. In the early 1980s, salinity levels in the River Murray were extremely high due to low flows. Irrigating with such salty water damaged crops, reduced harvest yield, and corroded pumps and pipelines.

Governments, landholders and communities decided to work together and we have since successfully reduced salinity in the Basin. The video recognises the achievements of communities and governments who stepped up to find solutions, including the Salt Interception Schemes that take more than 500,000 tonnes of salt out of the system every year.

Salinity is not going away, which is why in 2015 Basin Ministers agreed to a 15-year strategy to manage this problem up to 2030, which was only possible because of the shared commitment by all sides of politics.

We are well on track to do the same with the Basin Plan to ensure the long-term health and productivity of the Basin. It will take time but if we work together we will get there. One key component of the plan is flows to the ocean. This essential flow has a dual purpose — it is used to maximise environmental benefits, and it helps carry over one million tonnes of salt out to sea, enhancing the health and productivity of the Basin as a whole.

You can view the video on our website – mdba.gov.au. 

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