How Hydrography is helping the Salt Interception Scheme on the Murray River in the Sunraysia Region

Ceridwen Colgan - NSW Office of Water , 22 October, 2010

The 1999 Murray-Darling Basin Salinity Audit has shown that salt, previously stored in the landscape, is now being mobilised on a broad scale by rising groundwater tables due to land use changes across the basin. The current impact costs of dryland salinity in eight tributary valleys of the basin are estimated to be $247 million per year. The impact cost of salinity to consumptive users of River Murray water totals $47 million per year.

In August 2001, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) released the Basin Salinity Management Strategy 2001-2015 with the objective to control the rise in salt loads. Salt Interception Schemes (SIS) are large scale groundwater pumping and drainage projects that intercept saline water flows and dispose of them, generally by evaporation. To achieve this reduction, salt interception schemes across three States together pump over 55000 megalitres of saline water from water tables each year, resulting in 550 000 tonnes of salt being kept out of the Murray River annually.

The Management Strategy has required targets to be set for Electrical Conductivity (EC) levels, measured in microsiemens (µS/cm), in regional streams across the basin. The aim of the strategy is to reduce the EC at Morgan (in South Australia) by 61 µS/cm.

The South West Hydrometric Team of the New South Wales Office of Water (NOW) is responsible for implementing managing a project covering approximately 100 km of the Murray River, near Buronga. The target for this particular area (Mallee Cliffs) has been set to achieve a long term average reduction of 21.6 µS/ cm at Morgan.