Dryland salinity has been developing since large scale clearing began. It is estimated to affect between 1 and 2 million hectares (up to 10% of total land) in the agricultural regions of the South West, and cost $519 million per annum in lost agricultural production. Salinity also damages infrastructure, adding further costs, impacts on water resources and reduces biodiversity.
Predictions are that, without some level of intervention, the area of land affected by salinity could more than double over the next 50 to 100 years. Intervention on such a scale is a huge task and needs to be balanced against the possible cost, which could also be large.
Government has to decide how much intervention is both feasible and economically sound, but is currently in no position to make an informed decision. Since 2008, there has been a lack of strategic direction and agencies have reduced monitoring the extent and impact of salinity.
Managing dryland salinity is a shared responsibility, with shared benefits, and experience to date indicates that effectiveness relies on coordinated local action. It also relies on all landholders taking appropriate action to protect their land. But, in the absence of strategic direction, agencies have focused on protecting individual assets, and there has been little coordination of efforts between agencies, landholders and stakeholders.