Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) accepts the findings of the audit of the Management of Salinity in the agricultural regions of Western Australia.
The requirement to establish a new strategic direction for the management of salinity is acknowledged and DPIRD generally accepts the recommendations outlined to improve the effectiveness of the management of salinity in Western Australia.
DPIRD will work with DBCA and DWER through existing consultative mechanisms to ensure effective cooperation and coordination of future activities to manage salinity.
With the available estimates of salinity now nearly 20 years old, finalising a strategic direction will require establishing the current extent, impacts and rate of change in salinity. This will take approximately two years to complete, is unfunded and could not be achieved by December 2018 as recommended.
The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) accepts the key findings contained in the report and notes that the benefits of the previous investment into salinity management are often intangible.
The Department supports all but one of the recommendations proposed. While the setting of targets to reduce water tables and re-plant deep-rooted trees may appear attractive, the Department is of the view that the scale of intervention required for even small reductions in salinity levels place unreasonable and unobtainable expectations on land managers. It may also impose significant costs without realisation of benefits commensurate with the scale of investment required.
The Department believes that the current targeted approach to salinity mitigation whereby activity is focused in areas where there is a high chance of success is a much more efficient use of limited resources and provides a far greater return on investment than spreading the effort across large geographical areas.
Overall, DWER recognises the scale, complexity and importance of the management of salinity in the state’s agricultural regions. The Department also acknowledges the work of its predecessor agencies and other agencies and their contributions to the significant body of work on salinity management in Western Australia since the early 1900s.
This research has directly informed the Department’s policy with respect to waterways management and has resulted in success. Maintaining or improving salinity levels has been achieved in key water resource catchments including the Denmark River, which is now being used for drinking water for the town of Denmark, and the stabilization of salinity in the Wellington Reservoir enabling it to continue to be used for agriculture on the coastal plain and is the subject of renewed efforts to improve water quality.