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Salinity control and catchment management

A pre-requisite for sustainable land management is the management of water balance at a landscape and catchment scale. Understanding water balance is central to achieving effective control of salinity, nutrient loading in streams and wetlands and optimizing yield of potable water in catchment areas.

Dryland salinity is one of Western Australia's main environmental problems. Our involvement in this area was a conscious effort to engage in research that makes a significant contribution to solving this major form of land degradation in WA.

Research topics

  • Flowtube Project
  • Deep drains- effects on soil quality
  • Saltland pastures- opportunities for carbon sequestration and salinity control
  • Critical source areas for phosphorus
  • Ecosystem response to forest thinning in the Wungong Catchment

Flowtube project

Dryland salinity is a major problem affecting agricultural production in all Australian states. Much time, effort and money is currently being spent by land managers and grain growers on agronomic, tree-based and engineering strategies to ameliorate the problem. Unfortunately there are few means of quickly and simply assessing beforehand the spatial impact of these treatments.

Development of a simple tool to do this is urgently required. The groundwater computer model Flowtube developed by CSIRO Land and Water (CLW) has the potential to be evolved into such a tool. Modelling on behalf of the WA State Salinity Council using Flowtube investigated the impacts of the treatments recommended in the WA Salinity Action Plan, and after showing these to be inadequate for the task, investigated more effective alternatives. The model proved very effective in the rapid assessment of recharge management scenarios and in modelling the effect of a variety of treatments, but the catchments tested were quite difficult to set up and a computer expert was required to operate it.

The Department of Agriculture Western Australia commissioned The University of Melbourne (UniMelb) to develop the Flowtube program for the WA type catchments for the development of dryland salinity (RIRDC 1998A) so that catchments are easy to set up and so that it operates in a Windows type "point and click" environment. This project extended the Flowtube program to do the same for the eastern states catchment conceptual models (RIRDC 1998A) and to provide thorough testing of the program for all catchment conceptual models. Land and Water Australia and GRDC jointly funded it from March 2001. The Flowtube program can be inspected and downloaded from http://www.civenv.unimelb.edu.au/~argent/flowtube/