WLE's Salinity Management Framework
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  WLE Salinity Management Framework

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   Why a framework?

Salinity and drainage strategy - 1988:

Due to rapidly rising salinity levels in the Murray river the Murray Darling Basin Commission developed the “Salinity and Drainage Strategy” in 1988 (MDBC, 1989). The Salinity and Drainage (S&D) Strategy was an interstate program of action coordinated by the Murray-Darling Basin Commission. Acceptable guidelines for managing salinity and drainage along the Murray River were put together with the cooperation and input of community, industry and government representatives from the states of NSW, Vic and South Australia, and the Federal Government (DSE, DPI, 2005).

The specific objectives of the Strategy were to:

The S&D Strategy program consisted of four main elements:

The Strategy aimed to strike a balance between reducing river salinity in the lower Murray, with benefits for the 1.25 million urban, industrial and irrigation consumers in South Australia, while also providing the opportunity to control waterlogging and land salinisation in upstream irrigation areas of New South Wales and Victoria. The strategy was based on a balance between engineering (interception schemes) and non-engineering (land and water management) solutions (MDBC, 2003). An accounting framework was developed to “license” all existing and new salt inputs into the Murray River system, making all States accountable for future actions leading to salt inputs to the river. It also ensured that communities did not undertake activities that worsened salinity problem in other areas (MDBC, 2003). Any new salt inputs would first have to be offset by salinity credits earned by stopping existing saline drainage to the river, thus maintaining the 1988 salinity position. This strategy led to a situation in which all new irrigation development from 1988 onwards had to be undertaken with highly controlled drainage. Thus irrigation water use has increased and drainage has effectively been restricted; this ultimately has contributed to reduced river flows.

The S&D Strategy was a milestone in the management of natural resources in Australia in that it was the first time that state governments agreed to jointly tackle a specific problem across borders, including an agreement to spend funds outside of their jurisdiction (NSW Salinity Strategy, 2000).

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