Wa­ter ta­ble salt lev­els spike

Central and North Burnett Times - - RURAL UPDATE -

OUR wa­ter ta­ble is salty and it’s fore­cast to get saltier.

This could take a huge toll on cit­rus and small crop grow­ers in the Bur­nett catch­ment area in com­ing months.

“Salin­ity lev­els have spiked to the high­est we have seen in the past 10-15 years, pos­si­bly longer, which is the last thing landown­ers want right now,” Bur­nett Mary Re­gional Group soil sci­en­tist Peter Wilson said.

“It’s just one thing after another, we have the flood, then the drought and now we’ve got this flaming salty wa­ter!”

High salt lev­els are the re­sult of the wa­ter ta­ble ris­ing dur­ing the past cou­ple of wet years.

“The in­land Bur­nett land­scapes are nat­u­rally high in salt, so when the wa­ter ta­ble comes up the salt is mo­bilised, mak­ing the wa­ter ta­ble salty,” Mr Wilson said.

“We have leak­ages in our wa­ter ta­ble, so this salty wa­ter then flows into river sys­tems mak­ing them more saline as well. The leak­ages tend to be at lower parts of the land­scape, the dead veg­e­ta­tion you see in gul­lies is of­ten due to salt.

“Be­cause the Bur­nett River is so in­cised into the ge­ol­ogy, it takes up a lot of this leak­age.”

With dry weather pre­dicted over the next few months more fresh wa­ter is go­ing to evap­o­rate, mak­ing the salt con­cen­tra­tion in the rivers higher.

“The whole Bur­nett catch­ment area will be af­fected, but the mid­dle to lower ar­eas around Mun­dub­bera and Gayn­dah are go­ing to be the worst,” Mr Wilson said.

If hor­ti­cul­ture crops are ir­ri­gated with salty wa­ter it burns the fo­liage, and salty wa­ter in the soil re­stricts wa­ter up­take and stunts the plants’ growth.

But Mr Wilson said there were man­age­ment op­tions to work around the salt prob­lem.

“Ir­ri­gat­ing at night is good be­cause there is no evap­o­ra­tion then, so the fo­liage doesn’t get burned,” he said.

“Landown­ers could di­lute river wa­ter with fresh wa­ter, or wa­ter only un­der the canopy to avoid the fo­liage, and ap­ply soil con­di­tion­ers. But it is a very hard is­sue to man­age and it can be costly.”

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