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Senator the Hon. Penny Wong
Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water

The Hon Dr Mike Kelly AM MP
Parliamentary Secretary for Water

Hon Karlene Maywald
South Australian Minister for the River Murray

$30 Million scheme launched to cut Murray salinity and boost wetland health

Joint media release
3 September 2009

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Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, and South Australian Minister for the River Murray Karlene Maywald today launched the construction of a $30 million scheme to keep salt out of the Murray in SA's Riverland region.

The salt interception scheme, to be built at Murtho near Renmark, will stop an estimated 99.4 tonnes of salt a day (or 36,000 tonnes a year) from entering the river and will boost the ecological health of the nearby Riverland Ramsar wetland site.

Salt interception works are large-scale groundwater pumping and drainage projects that intercept saline groundwater flows and dispose of them, generally by evaporation.

"When completed, the Murtho scheme will join a number of others which cumulatively keep about 300,000 tonnes of salt out of the Murray each year," Senator Wong said.

"The scheme is an excellent example of Federal and State cooperation, with joint funding from the Australian Government, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia through the Murray-Darling Basin Authority."

Senator Wong and Minister Maywald launched construction during a tour by Senator Wong of the southern end of the Murray-Darling Basin accompanied by Federal Parliamentary Secretary Dr Mike Kelly.

The concept design for the Murtho scheme includes 52 production wells equipped with submersible pumps and about 54 km of pipeline.

Dr Kelly said the intercepted groundwater would be piped from the borefield to the Noora Disposal Basin.

"The Murtho scheme, which is expected to be up and running in less than three years, is a key project in achieving the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council's aim to control salinity in the River Murray," Dr Kelly said. 2

"This measure will help improve river health, in line with the Rudd Government's priorities under the 10-year, $12.9 billion Water for the Future plan.

"The four key elements of Water for the Future are: taking action on climate change, using water wisely, securing our water supplies, and supporting healthy rivers."

Minister Maywald says salinity management is even more important during the current drought, which is causing continued low flows across the border into South Australia.

"Salt interception is an investment for our future. Without the salt interception schemes in place, salinity levels throughout the river system in South Australia could have been higher.

"South Australia has four schemes in place at Bookpurnong, Woolpunda, Waikerie and Loxton which in total last year, intercepted about 215,000 tonnes of salt from entering the River Murray.

"In addition to the Murtho scheme launched today, other salt interception schemes include an extension to the Waikerie scheme, soon to be complete, and a scheme planned in the Pike area, near Renmark.

"When the total program of six salt interception schemes is completed, we could be intercepting about 850 tonnes per day, or 330,000 tonnes per year of salt from flowing into the River Murray," Minister Maywald said.

"This is a great investment in the future health of the River Murray."

Commonwealth of Australia