Urban Salinity

Salinity is the accumulation of salt in land and water to a level that impacts on the natural and built environment.  Salinity occurs naturally in many parts of Australian but in many cases has been exacerbated where human activities accelerate the mobilisation and accumulation of salt. Today the spread of salinity impacts farms, irrigation areas, wetlands, rivers, drinking water and infrastructure. It is a national issue. It has taken many decades for the problem to emerge and will be with us for a long time to come. Solving it is a shared responsibility involving land managers, conservationists, Aboriginal communities, scientists, businesses and all levels of government. Ground water testing in Tumut and Adelong in 2007/08 revealed that salinity levels were low but we need to manage salinity well into the future. This work was jointly funded by the Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority.

Identifying Salinity
The following information is only provided as a basic guide to assist in recognising some of the common indicators of salinity. The assessment of salinity hazard and areas of potential risk is best done by experts. Further information on identifying salinity around your property is discussed in the booklet “Indicators of Urban Salinity” which was produced by the Department of Land and Water Conservation in 2002.

The items on the following checklist were taken from Good Housekeeping to Manage Urban Salinity and are either typical symptoms of urban salinity, or are processes which may contribute to urban salinity. It should be noted that some of these indicators may not be related to salinity at all and can be caused by other unrelated issues. Urban salinity is usually associated with a combination of these indicators, and any one indicator in isolation cannot be used to diagnose salinity.

Buildings

  • The mortar between the bricks is powdery or disappearing.
  • Some bricks or pavers seems to be flaking or crumbling, or seem to be wearing away.
  • Concrete seems to be wearing, corroding, or cracking.
  • Down pipes are corroding at ground level.

Gardens and lawns
Plants seem to be stressed or dying.

  • There are bare or yellow patches in the lawn that are not due to drought, pests, or other factors e.g. watering with soapy water, compaction or lack of nutrients.

Drainage and water
There are water logged areas that are present even when it hasn’t been raining recently. (Note: this could be due to broken pipes)

  • Water collects against the house during rain.
  • The basement or area under the house is often damp.
  • There is a rubble pit, or disconnected down pipes on the site.

Other indicators
Recurring cracks or potholes in nearby roads or footpaths, not related to heavy traffic or other obvious causes.

  • Cracking or corroding kerbs and gutters in the street.
  • Neighbour’s properties seem to have similar indicators of salinity.
  • Grass or plants in the nature strip or local parks are yellow or are dying.

What is Tumut Shire Council doing to combat Urban Salinity?
In 2009 Council completed the following projects in an attempt to help reduce the impacts of Urban Salinity:

  1. Pioneer Park, Tumut - Riparian restoration and floodplain enhancement to improve water quality.
  2. McFarlanes Creek Park, Tumut - riparian restoration and waterwise demonstration to improve water quality and manage urban salinity.
  3. Educational package placed on Council’s website.
  4. Information brochure under development.

Find out more about

  • the basics of salinity and how salt is mobilised and the factors that influence the distribution and extent of salinity in the landscape
  • what can be done to minimise the effects of dryland salinity, irrigation salinity, urban and industrial salinity
  • the opportunities that are available for businesses to make the best use of saline-affected land and water, and the market-based solutions that are being established to help control salinity
  • the role of science in assessing, monitoring and evaluating salinity, and the studies and research that the NSW Government is undertaking to help Catchment Management Authorities, landholders and the broader community control salinity