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Water Link Defines New Farm Frontiers

06 March 2013

AUSTRALIA - Surprising new evidence has led scientists to concentrate on the link between water and salt in the Australian landscape with hydrological research in NSW set to define new boundaries for water and land management.

Department of Primary Industries (DPI) hydrologist, David Mitchell, said the connection between ground and surface water to salt reserves is yet to be fully explored.

"Recent groundwater observations have revealed dramatic rises in salt levels following rain with salinity levels rising higher than those recorded before the last drought," Dr Mitchell said.

"We expected the flushing effect of high rainfall to decrease salinity levels and now we aim to uncover the drivers behind this unanticipated effect.

"Exploration of these findings will benefit the development of water sharing and land use strategies which better manage salt deposits in local landscapes."

Dr Mitchell said data from long-term trials, which have run for up to 20 years in the central west and south-west slopes, showed that while salt movement can be consistent across large areas it can also vary from one area to another.

"An improved understanding of the connection gives water and land managers the ability to boost production and natural resource management across catchments," he said.

"Sites at Gumble and Boorowa have proven that land use, groundwater levels and rainfall can affect the salt movement in the landscape.

"Now we propose to continue to collect data and further explore existing data by comparing previous drought periods with rainfall events between 2010 and 2012.

"Rigorous statistical analysis of data from wet and dry periods will be used to explore the drivers of salt movements in the landscape.

"Naturally occurring salts in the soil could also be used as environmental tracers to reveal the connection between water flows and salt movements.

"The new data will be used to develop a model which could simulate the future effects of rain and drought events."

Results from the hydrological study will help prioritise future investment in natural resource management and allow better management of geographically targeted areas.

TheCropSite News Desk

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