Salinity in Western Australia
Salinity is one of the greatest environmental threats facing Western Australia's agricultural land, water, biodiversity and infrastructure. It is caused by too much water containing dissolved salts in the wrong places in the landscape, which has been accelerated by the clearing of perennial vegetation since European settlement.
According to the most recent estimates from Land Monitor (2004) based on satellite images and ground-truthing, about a million hectares in the south-west agricultural region were severely affected by salinity in the year 2000. A further 2.8 to 4.5 million hectares have been identified as representing a salinity hazard.
In 2006, monitoring of groundwater levels by Department of Agriculture and Food hydrologists indicated that groundwater levels (and hence the risk of salinity) are continuing to climb in most agricultural areas. One exception was in parts of the northern agricultural region which was attributed to a run of dry seasons.
An earlier estimate by the National Land and Water Resources Audit (NLWRA) indicated that up to 6.3 million hectares of farmland in Western Australia could be at high risk of developing shallow saline watertables by the year 2050. Visit the NLWRA site for more information and full reports.
The Framework [Expired] has developed investment principles for salinity management and analysed the impact of salinity on land, infrastructure, biodiversity and water.
The Cooperative Research Centre for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity (CRC Salinity at www.futurefarmcrc.com.au) is a major research organisation covering the southern States of Australia and publishes Salt Magazine (twice-yearly farmer case studies) and Focus on Salt (newsletter for salinity practitioners).
The National Dryland Salinity Program provided a comprehensive review of dryland salinity, causes, extent and management in a series of reports and web-enabled publications, concluding in 2004. The website is still available but is not being updated.
The Department of Agriculture and Food is working with five Natural Resource Management regions on salinity as part of the part of the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality.
It also has several dedicated projects that deliver salinity information and services to the community including:
- Salinity: an introduction - provides definitions of salinity and more detail about the hydrogeological processes in dryland salinity
- Salinity: extent - estimating the extent of dryland salinity. Visit the Land Monitor website for areas of current salinity and estimates of areas of future hazard
- Salinity: impact. Visit the [Expired] on the Department of Environment website for review of impact on salinity on land, infrastructure
- Salinity: costs - the GRDC-funded Economic evaluation of salinity management options (268KB pdf) outlines the costs to cropping systems
- Salty Bunch of Dates 1772 to 2002 - a history of salinity in Western Australia Ilisting important (and some unimportant) dates.
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Page updated: February 2009
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