I’ve been extremely impressed by how everyone in the Murray-Darling Basin always comes together on one issue — to tackle salinity in our rivers.
I’m proud that all governments and agencies, including the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and its predecessors, have worked with basin communities over the past 30 years to turn back the tide on salinity.
Travelling in the basin has given me a real appreciation for just how connected the system is.
If water quality goes down in one part of the river, it will be felt in another.
The whole system is connected and there is no topic that demonstrates that connection more than salinity.
Everyone on the river would be familiar with Australia’s salt problem.
The way our continent was formed means that we have saline groundwater and soils.
With increased land clearing and agricultural production last century, salt progressively mobilised which increased salinity. This became the most important challenge facing rivers and catchments.
In the early 1980s, salinity levels in the Murray River 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 committed to act and have been working together ever since to overcome what must have looked like an insurmountable problem.
The good news is that we have since successfully reduced salinity in the basin.
MDBA chairman Neil Andrew is particularly passionate and committed to this shared endeavour.
Mr Andrew is familiar with the salinity problem, having been a citrus farmer in the early 1980s. And just last week, he was at the Mildura Field Days to release the MDBA’s new Salt of the Earth video.
The video recognises the achievements of farmers and governments who stepped up to find solutions to salinity.
The resulting Salt Interception Schemes take more than 500000 tonnes of salt out of the system every year by pumping groundwater onto collection basins. That’s a lot of salt.
We know salinity is not going away, and we all need to keep focused on this problem into the future.
In 2015, basin ministers agreed to another 15-year strategy to manage salinity up to 2030. This shows commitment on all sides will continue.
Through developing and implementing a long-term plan and by working together, the basin community has reduced salinity to manageable levels.
We are well on track to do the same with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, which will ensure the long-term health and productivity of the entire Murray-Darling Basin.
It will take time but if we work together we will get there.
■View the Salt of the Earth video at: www.mdba.gov.au