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Joint Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
and
Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
The Hon Peter McGauran MP
and
South Australian Minister for Environment and Conservation
The Hon Gail Gago MLC
and
South Australian Minister for the River Murray
The Hon Karlene Maywald MP

18 September 2006

Saving the Murray from salinity


The Bookpurnong Salt Interception Scheme has been officially opened in South Australia’s Riverland as part of an $11 million commitment to reducing the threat salinity poses to the River Murray and its flood plains.

The project is an example of governments across Australia working together with a local community to tackle a national problem like salinity in the River Murray.

The Australian and South Australian governments are contributing funding equally to the project and it’s also being supported by the Victorian and NSW governments through the Murray Darling Basin Commission.

The Australian Ministers for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter McGauran; and the South Australian Ministers for the Environment and Conservation, Gail Gago, and the River Murray, Karlene Maywald, noted the project’s benefits.

Minister McGauran said the Scheme, which is being jointly funded through the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality ($6.3 million - SA and Australian governments) and the Murray Darling Basin Commission ($4.8 million – Australian, SA, NSW and Victorian governments), would stop tonnes of salt entering the River Murray each day in the Bookpurnong area.

“The Murray supports a large amount of Australia’s agricultural production and is a vital source of drinking water for Adelaide and other communities. Salinity is threatening this important natural resource and projects like Bookpurnong are taking a big step towards managing salinity in Australia,” Minister McGauran said.

“In 1997 the flood plains surrounding the Murray were in a bad state – water twice as salty as seawater was flowing into the River. Over the next 30 years, the Bookpurnong Salt Interception Scheme will be extracting around 110 tonnes of salt a day that would otherwise have flowed into the Murray,” Minister McGauran said.

Senator Campbell said the project would see the groundwater in highly-degraded flood plains lowered to allow for rehabilitation and possibly allow land to come back into productive use.

“The system involves constructing a series of bores and pipelines next to the Murray to intercept highly saline groundwater before it is discharged into the river. Once the water levels have dropped, community work such as landscape revegetation and flood plain rehabilitation will commence,” Senator Campbell said.

Minister Gago said the salt interception process had proven very effective in preventing both natural and irrigation-induced flows of saline groundwater from entering the Murray.

Minister Maywald said salt interception schemes were a key component of the Basin Salinity Management Strategy to address long term salinity.

For more information on the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality visit www.nrm.gov.au.

Media contacts:
Minister McGauran: Nancy Joseph (02) 6277 7520
Minister Campbell: Rob Broadfield (02) 6277 7640 or 0409 493 902
Minister Gago: Richard Lower (08) 8463 5680 or 0419 838 646
Minister Maywald: (08) 8207 2191

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