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Soil & Water Conservation

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The New Currency is Soil and Water

Our greatest natural resources in Australia are the soil we stand on, grow produce in and graze livestock on, and the water that makes the rural produce production possible.  Yet, soil and water conservation matters in Australia are in crisis through decades of neglect and underestimation of the problems.  Now that the problem has been recognised by most people, budgetary constraints and an attitude of political priorities and righteousness stand in the way of the solutions.

What is needed is decisive action in each of these areas, and the technology is currently available in Australia.  However, the timeframes are shortening rapidly.  As at June 2008, it was estimated that unless the Murray River system flowed and preferably flooded through the lake system at the river mouth, the internationally known Coorongs, within 4 months the region would be effectively dead and unable to be restored to life as a river ecosystem.  Many of the native species of fish and other wildlife face extinction if this happens.  This is the diagnosis of scientists who have been working in this region and specialising in the Murray River system for years.  The system is still critical, although rainfall in the upper reaches has enabled some flow into the system.

What can be done?

River flows.  Contrary to popular belief, Australia has an abundance of water, but a poor distribution of it.  We have enormous amounts of rainfall in the northern and eastern regions of Australia and very little substantial rain on the southern and western regions.  The great dividing range on the east coast separates the high and low rainfall areas on the east coast, and the channel country deserts to the north separate the Darling River catchment from the northern flowing rivers and rainfall area.  We also have some quite large lakes and storage systems on the Darling River System, including Cubby Cubby Station and the Menindee Lakes.  Cubby Cubby Station has now been bought by the Federal Government, ostensibly for its water carrying capacity, and been subsequently found to drain into another river system.  Although it is now $25,000,000 of wasted taxpayer money, it does demonstrate that water storage in this area is viable.

This suggests that other, better placed water storage areas could be located throughout Northern Australia to harvest excess flood waters from the summer monsoon rains.  The Ord River is an example of a great catchment area and storage, although it is a very long way from the Darling River.

Geologist John Nethery has investigated the Flinders River catchment area and suggests that a viable site for water storage exists there, harvesting water from a 2,000 km square catchment area for diversion into the Thompson River.  This initiative is explained more fully on the "Diverting Northern Rivers South" page.

The same principle applies to many of the East Coast rivers and especially those from the NSW Northern Rivers region, where flood damage is a regular problem for transport and local farming operations alike.

With proper surveying and judicious application of hydraulic technology, water that currently flows North and East to the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Great Barrier Reef and smothers coral, could be partly diverted inland and enable at least annual flushing of the Darling River system, which in turn will enable the currently meagre flows of the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers to be supplemented to the level required to flood flush the river system.  Not wholesale river diversion, as all river flows are important, but enough to supplement the inland flows, while minimising the flood damage of the coastal flowing rivers at peak times and in their wet seasons.

Once regular river flows are re-established, flood mitigation and water harvesting will be enabled along the river flowing in either direction.  The benefits of this go much further than simply preventing the most severe floods, or enabling irrigation to occur.

Soil Salinity.  Proper soil management, growing the right trees, maintaining the water table, these are now factors which are much better understood than they were five, three or even one decade ago.  However, we now know that we have the technology to combat soil salinity with suitable vegetation and proper application of water as and when required, for the vegetation growth to be enabled.  The only other factors missing are the government funds allocation and the will to act where necessary to correct the problem with direction and resource allocation.  Both the Natural Sequence Farming and Keyline systems have and demonstrate perfectly suitable methods and strategies for rehabilitation of soil salinity problems.  Both have been viable for at least two decades, and Keyline was an established practice over 6 decades ago, yet lack of political will and a true appreciation of the severity of the problem have sidelined them until now, when millions of years of geological evolution, rest on the decisions to be taken or abrogated in the next few months.

Currently, river flows and irrigation channels are uncovered and very inefficient.   Whilst a major operation, covering irrigation channels is something that can be geared up for production-wise, and undertaken in short time. 


Research these topics:

  • The Keyline Plan – P A Yeomans – WATER FOR EVERY FARM.  Over 6 decades ago, this was new technology.  It is still relevant and effective.

  • Natural Sequence Farming – Peter Andrews.  Study this newly publicised concept.

Compare and contrast these two powerful soil and water philosophies – see how supplementary and complementary they are to each other – Keyline on the slopes and NSF in the watercourses.

Spread the word in any area where soil and water conservation or soil salinity or degradation is occurring.  Apply your new knowledge to the reclamation of these areas and recruit local support for people, teams and businesses to help you to do the reclamation work or get it done.

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Putting the pressure on our politicians and leaders, to take the decisions that need to be taken right now, to solve the problems we have, that we already know how to solve!