Salinity has been developing since large scale clearing in the South West agricultural regions began, and is forecast to continue to expand for another 50 years or more. Estimates are that it affects between 1 and 2 million hectares, potentially rising to 5 million, and costs over half a billion dollars a year in lost agricultural production alone.
The scale of the problem is daunting, but so is the scale of the action that would be needed to eliminate salinity. It would require re-planting 80% of the Wheatbelt, a huge task, requiring significant investment that would make broad scale agriculture, as it currently exists, impossible.
The State Salinity Strategy, which stopped 10 years ago, reflected the fact that salinity is a shared problem. It is not spread evenly through the landscape and managing it often relies on action by landholders whose land is not salt affected.
Recovering the landscape completely would take decades and comes with its own significant impacts. But agencies, landholders and communities can adapt to salinity and mitigate its spread and impact through well informed, well targeted, collaborative local action. For agencies to play an effective role in this, they need good information on the extent and impact of salinity, to understand the best options in tackling it, and they need to build effective partnerships to get things done.