Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Salinity is on the rise

A former salinity campaigner warns of the dangers of ignoring a salinity threat in the Goulburn Valley.

CATHY WALKER November 20, 2012 4:03am

John Dainton is a former GMW chairman who was involved in drainage projects to fix salinity.

Alfred Deakin, recognised as a pioneer of irrigation in Australia, famously told State Parliament in 1896: ‘‘Irrigation without drainage is useless.’’

Shepparton’s John Dainton recalled last week that during his many years of involvement on water bodies and in salinity action projects, he often used the quote from the man who later became Australia’s second prime minister.

Mr Dainton, the retired former Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority and Goulburn-Murray Water chairman, said nothing had changed: Deakin was 100 per cent correct. But he worries that in 2012 the advice is still being ignored.

Mr Dainton said the current height of the water tables and their implications for salinity on agricultural land was ‘‘absolutely alarming’’.

‘‘This is a wake-up call, particularly to the government. It’s both a state and federal issue,’’ Mr Dainton said.

He said the only reason salinity in the Goulburn Broken region dropped off the radar was the low water table during the years of low rainfall.

‘‘The drought fixed all that up — but it’s a temporary fix.’’

As a farmer, Mr Dainton became involved with the Salinity Pilot Program Advisory Committee in the late 1980s ‘‘to see whether the community could solve the very serious problem that you couldn’t see’’.

And as soon as test wells began popping up around the place, ‘‘farmers were knocking on your door asking what the hell are you going to do about it’’.

‘‘We’re past all that, surely,’’ he said.

‘‘The education has been done.’’

Dealing with salinity should always be a priority in irrigation areas, Mr Dainton said.

While he acknowledged big improvements in agricultural practices, he said drainage to address potential salinity problems caused by flooding events and irrigation should be tied to modernisation.

‘‘It should be addressed within the Murray-Darling Basin Plan; to me it doesn’t address salinity issues all that well,’’ Mr Dainton said.

He said millions had already been spent on drainage projects that were never finished and now needed money thrown at them, and ‘‘the CMA should be singing out loud and clear’’.

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