By the 1970s high water tables were becoming more
widespread, particularly in the Wakool Irrigation
District where the groundwater was very salty.
Land clearing, the introduction of irrigation, the
major flood of 1956, followed by another major
flood in 1974 all contributed to the problem.
By 1981 19,200 hectares of the Wakool District had
water tables within 1.5 metres of the surface. High
water tables dramatically reduced the productivity of
these areas and threatened regional biodiversity. More
than 2,000 hectares of farmland was completely barren.
The Government was already taking action, developing
the Wakool Tullakool Sub Surface Drainage
Scheme. At the same time landholders in the east
were lobbying for additional surface drainage to alleviate
water logging, but construction of the evaporation
basins was given priority.
The scheme was established on a 2,100 hectare site
near Wakool and was built in two stages between
1978 and 1988. Saline groundwater is pumped
through a network of underground pipes into evaporation
The scheme now successfully protects more than
50,000 hectares of land in the Wakool area from high
water tables and salinity.
The evaporation basins are only one of a number of
strategies developed to combat rising water tables
across the region. Others include improved farm
layouts, surface drainage, water reuse and
Research is underway into the possible use of saline
groundwater, which is similar to sea water, for the
commercial production of fish.
Trials are being conducted at the NSW Inland Aquaculture
Research Centre which has been
established at the Wakool evaporation basins.
In October 2004 Rainbow Trout produced at the research
centre (pictured above) were sold at butcher shops
throughout the region.
Tiger Prawns from the research centre have
also been sold into Melbourne and Sydney fish
markets. Photo: Murray Irrigation.