Salinity Draws More Attention Resolutions

By Brett Fifield

January 14, 2000 The Rural News

Rising Water Tables and Salinity in Yass River Valley explores one of Australian farmers' greatest enemies - salinity.

Neat and informative, Rising Water Tables and Salinity in Yass River Valley is the result of joint work between the Rotary Club of Hall and the Murrumbidgee Landcare Association to canvas salinity issues affecting farmers throughout the Southern Tablelands.

The publication is a collection of papers which were presented at a public information forum held at Yass.

The soft cover release is 100 pages and includes speech of the forum's keynote speaker. Andrew Campbell, Environment Australia.

The forum, which was attended by nearly 100 people, was held in March 1999 and was hailed a success by organisers and participants.

The collection of papers left few aspects of water tables and Salinity unmentioned.

The seriousness of the problem of rising water tables and salinity throughout the Southern

Tablelands is highlighted and particular mention is made to the Yass River Valley' which is referred to as a "salinity hot spot".

The keynote address of the forum, The Role of the Community in Tackling Salinity, recounted Mr Campbell's trip to a property at Cavendish in western Victoria.

Land management and major land use changes in Australia. as seen at Cavendish, formed the basis of the speech. "This change (from sheep/wool to forestry) is symbolic of some of the major land use changes underway in Australia, often driven from financial problems as commodity prices have fallen and land and water degradation, including dryland salinity, have reduced productivity Mr Campbell said.

There are many cases where people have been forced to leave the land and their way of life.

"These cases raise the issue of compensation or support to stay on (the land) where the major issue is degradation, particularly where the cases have largely been beyond the control of the landholder.

"The condition of our landscape, waterways and the biodiversity they support should be recognised as a critical national issue. Landholders acting alone and within their own resources should not be expected to bear the whole burden."

"We should pay more attention to Europe where there is common recognition that a countryside populated by responsible, viable landholders is desirable."

The two major themes of the speech outlined in the report involve the increasingly participatory nature of landholders in research and learning for sustainability; and the opportunities now available for effective action against the problems - National Heritage Trust and other incentive programs.

Yass Department of Land and Water Conservation catchment manager, John Franklin presented a paper, Dryland Salinity: A Land Management Issue -Not a Disaster, which is

included in Rising Water Tables and Salinity in Yass River Valley.

Mr Franklin said dryland salinity, due to its significant on-site effects such as loss of productive land and erosion problems, is an insidious form of land degradation deserving more attention from landholders.

"Salinity is one of the biggest land degradation issues in the Yass River Valley," Mr Franklin said. "The combination of on-site and off-site costs results in every person living and working in the River's catchment being affected to some extent."

Mr Franklin said salinity has received attention from farmers and groups, but believes more is need. "Land management agencies, all levels of government, landholders and the community at large have certainly not been marking time since the emergence of salinity as a problem," Mr Franklin said.

Mr Franklin discussed a number of programs used in the Yass River Valley to combat arid monitor salinity.

For farmers on the Yass River Valley, Rising Water Tables and Salinity in the Yass River Valley is a handy reference manual. The publication's content, a mix of results, opinion, case studies and history, has the ability to motivate farmers and steer them towards more productive farming.

Copies of Rising Water Tables and Salinity in Yass River Valley are available by contacting Yass Landcare on (02) 6226 1433.