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Published: 17 July 2018   •   Media release

An independent report into salinity management in the Murray–Darling Basin has found programs to combat salt are delivering better quality water into rivers and waterways.

The independent report has reviewed the first two years of the Basin Salinity Management 2030 strategy, which began in 2015 and works in concert with the Basin Plan. Together these initiatives aim to improve water quality and the wellbeing of people who rely on water from the Basin.

Murray–Darling Basin Authority head of River Management Andrew Reynolds said the results were encouraging and proved the benefits of cooperation between states as well as the success of schemes to divert salt away from the river system.

"The results of the independent review show we're successfully fighting salinity and improving the quality of water flowing through our major rivers and waterways. This shows the Basin Plan is working," Mr Reynolds said.

"Partner governments and the Murray–Darling Basin Authority have been working together to meet the Basin salinity target for the Murray River town of Morgan, and these results show the clear benefits of that cooperation.

"However, while great progress has been made, managing salinity remains an ongoing challenge in the Basin."

The report by the Independent Audit Group for Salinity found that for the eighth consecutive year, average daily salinity levels at Morgan in South Australia were below the key Basin target of 800 units of electrical conductivity (EC) for 95 per cent of the time.

Two years into the program, salinity at Morgan was 725 EC for 95 per cent of the time. Salinity targets were also met at Lock 6, Murray Bridge and Milang in South Australia. The target was not met at the Burtundy reporting site in New South Wales due to a lack of flow in the Lower Darling River.

The report, which covered the period from July 2015 to June 2017, highlights the need to continue the salinity management strategy to help evaluate risk and to monitor new developments.

It said high rainfall across the Basin in 2016 led to significant flooding and resulted in an estimated 1.8 million tonnes of salt flowing to the sea. Salt interception schemes also diverted an estimated 395,000 tonnes of salt away from the river system in 2016-17 or more than a 1000 tonnes a day.

A separate Murray–Darling Basin Authority report into the Basin salinity strategy said ongoing work was needed to ensure salinity was kept in check.

"Ongoing salinity management aims to strengthen past successes, continue to achieve the Basin salinity target at Morgan, manage risks and develop future management needs and strategies," it said.

The Murray–Darling Basin is Australia's food bowl which produces more than $22 billion worth of food and fibre a year and is home to more than two million people.

The Basin Plan, which became law in 2012, aims to ensure sustainable water management for communities, farmers and the environment for current and future generations.

The two reports are available on the Murray–Darling Basin Authority publications site.

A background video about salinity management, Salt of the Earth, is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVNZDs6z7xw.

ENDS

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