The report 'Salinity Predictions for NSW Rivers in the Murray Darling Basin' (PDF 1.5MB) indicates that water quality in many inland rivers is likely to decline over the coming years, if no remediating actions are taken. For example, it is predicted that:
- At Dubbo, on the Macquarie River, water currently exceeds World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for the acceptable taste of drinking water (800 EC) six per cent of the time. This is expected to increase to over 80 per cent of the time by 2100.
- The Macquarie, Namoi and Bogan Rivers will exceed the 800 EC threshold for desirable drinking water within 20 years, and will exceed the 1500 EC threshold for significant irrigation crops and environmental damage within 100 years
- The Lachlan and Castlereagh Rivers will exceed 800EC within 50 years, and
- The Warrego and Border Rivers will exceed 800 EC before 2020.
Salt lowers the quality of water used for rural, domestic, industrial and agricultural purposes. Increasing river salinity places pressure on town water supplies and results in increased treatment and infrastructure costs. Where the water for town supplies is 'hard' (ie where the salt is based on calcium or magnesium), water may require extensive and expensive treatment before it is suitable for human use. Hard water can result in damage to hot water systems and household appliances, and increased use of soaps, detergents and water conditioners.
Increasing salt concentrations in rivers and streams can have a significant impact on manufacturing and food processing industries where water of low salinity is an important requirement. The future development of these industries may not be economically viable in areas at risk from rising salinity levels.
Page last updated: 26 February 2011