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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

6 May 2001


South Australians are this week collecting vital data to map a snapshot of the state's salinity levels for the first time.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill today launched the Saltwatch Week monitoring saying Commonwealth funding through Waterwatch was enabling groups to collect figures across the state.

"The focus for this Saltwatch Week event is strongly focusing on our salinity hotspot - the Murray-Darling Basin," Senator Hill said from the banks of the river at Murray Bridge.

"Right throughout this week community and school groups in South Australia will sample water in the River Murray and at sites right across the state to measure salt levels with salinity meters."

Salinity monitoring figures will be taken by more than 90 groups during the week and then delivered to a central office at the South Australian Environment Protection Authority so they can be collated.

"Salinity information collected by groups in South Australia will be added to a database and pinpointed on a map of Australia with data which is also being collected in Victoria and at some sites in Queensland," Senator Hill said.

"The information will then be available on the internet so South Australians can immediately see where the state's salinity hotspots exist."

Senator Hill said more than 30 groups were expected to be targeting the River Murray region.

"The salinity levels in the Murray-Darling Basin are of great concern to all South Australians and this testing will show levels at about 60 sites across the Murray region," he said.

"It is hoped the Saltwatch Week monitoring will be happening right across Australia by 2002 because the data collected is an important gauge to measure how successful we are in dealing with Australia's serious salinity problems."

Salinity is a major environmental issue facing South Australia with the recent National Land and Water Resources Audit stating the estimated area affected by salinity in the Murray Basin in 1998 was 19,800ha. This figure was estimated to increase to 29,600ha in South Australia by 2020.

Senator Hill said the salinity testing work would tie in with the Prime Minister's $1.4 billion National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality which has been designed to help communities develop and implement catchment specific plans for tackling salinity and improving water quality in their areas.

"Communities are being asked to take a catchment-wide view of salinity and water quality problems and to work together to find solutions," Senator Hill said.

"Governments will be helping these regional communities with their plans, providing information on the latest technologies and engineering, and working jointly with each other and the community to bring about genuine and lasting improvements to their land and water resources."

Funding will be available to priority catchments for sustainable solutions to salinity problems that are part of an accredited regional plan.

"Over the next decade Saltwatch Week monitoring will enable us to evaluate the impact of the National Action Plan by comparing the salt levels from year to year," Senator Hill said.

The Commonwealth has set aside $700 million towards implementing the National Action Plan and the State and Territory Governments are providing matching amounts.

May 6, 2001

Media enquiries:
Senator Hill's office Belinda Huppatz 0419 258 364

Commonwealth of Australia