Land clearance and river salinisation in the western Murray Basin, Australia

G. B. Allison, P. G. Cook, S. R. Barnett, G. R. Walker, I. D. Jolly, M. W. Hughes

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254 Citations (Scopus)


The clearing of native vegetation in a semi-arid region of southern Australia has led to increases in groundwater recharge of about two orders of magnitude. Although most of the clearing took place early this century, the generally deep water table along with the low rates of recharge means that there is a considerable delay in the response of the aquifer to the increased recharge. The rates of pre- and post-clearing recharge, and the time delay in aquifer response have been estimated using unsaturated zone chloride and matric suction profiles. Predictions of the time lag in aquifer response have been verified using bore hydrographs. The results of these analyses suggest that where the soils are light textured, and the water table is less than 40 m below the soil surface, it is now rising. Where the soils are heavier textured, it is estimated that the water table is rising only where it is less than 10 m below the soil surface. The effect of the increased recharge rates on the salinity of the River Murray, a major water resource, have been predicted using a groundwater model of the region. The predictions suggest that the salinity of the river will increase at about 1 μS cm-1 year-1 over the next 50 years and beyond.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1990
Externally publishedYes


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