Aquatic ecosystems in the Murray-Darling Basin are vulnerable to the impacts of salinity. Many plants and animals have specific thresholds beyond which changes in water quality have a detrimental effect. Salinity can also lead to a decline in floodplain vegetation condition, reduced recruitment of key species such as river red gums and general habitat degradation when salt accumulates in the soil profile.
Increasing salinity levels along the South Australian River Murray, Lower Lakes and Coorong as a result of drought have negatively impacted on ecosystem health. Recovery of these systems is still underway.
High salinity can also have economic implications by reducing irrigated crop yields, reducing plant health and ultimately damaging crops. High levels of salt can also make water unfit for consumption by stock, corrode infrastructure and reduce the amount of land available for production. All these impacts adversely affect agricultural industries.
Drinking water supplies can be threatened by high salinity. In an average year, 60 per cent of Adelaide’s water supply is sourced from the River Murray. Regional centres and country towns such as Port Augusta are 100 per cent dependent on the River Murray for water, regardless of climatic situation, as currently there are no suitable alternative sources.
The South Australian Government continues to manage these threats and invests significant resources in collaboration with other state governments in the basin to manage salinity, both on land and in the river.
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