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Salinity and Wagga Wagga

Salinity and Wagga Wagga

Salinisation occurs when rising watertables bring mineral salts in the soil to the surface.

Salt in the ground and in the bricks
Salt in the ground and in the bricks. Photo: Karen Giddings.

Salinisation became a national issue in Australia in the 1990s.

In 2000 it was estimated that nearly 5.7 million hectares were considered at risk or affected by dryland salinity.

In 50 years time the affected area could triple to 17 million hectares, mostly in the densely settled parts of southern Australia.

According to scientists, salinisation occurs when dramatic alterations to local ecologies change the movement of water through land. Widespread removal of local native plants, for instance, has caused watertables to rise in many agricultural and urban areas. Communities of deep-rooted, perennial plants are adapted to hold and utilise much rainfall. Clearing of native trees, shrubs and grasses allows more water to enter watertables. Australian subsoils are rich in natural salts and rising groundwater brings dissolved salts to ground surfaces. Dryland salinisation kills plants, limits agricultural productivity, and destroys infrastructure.

Salinisation in urban areas like Wagga Wagga is compounded by over-watering. This includes garden watering and the effects of domestic rubble pits, which cause roof run-off to soak directly into watertables.

The effects of salinity in Wagga Wagga urban areas were first identified in the 1990s. This led the community to invest substantial social and economic resources addressing the issue. During the 1990s the Wagga Wagga City Council invested over $3 million in an Urban Salinity Strategy.

Community groups, such as the Wagga Wagga Urban Landcare Group, invested countless hours in tree planting, public education activities, lobbying council and other government agencies.

For people not involved in such groups, salinity also has a range of impacts. Some Wagga Wagga residents remember changes in their lawns and water welling under neighbour's houses.

Beyond the town salinity has a different history.

Like all events, accounts of salinity in Wagga Wagga are complex and sometimes contradictory.

Salinity themes

To learn more about the diverse impacts of salinity on people in the Wagga Wagga region, choose a story from one of the five interrelated themes:

Salinity resources

Some salinity resources can be found by following the links below. The links listed are for reference only. The National Museum of Australia does not necessarily endorse all of the content of these sites. This information is presented in the interests of informing discussions about salinity.