The SA Department for Environment and Water (DEW) has recently trialled a citizen science program in South Australia’s winegrape growing regions where increasing groundwater salinity may pose a threat to soil structure and winegrape yield and quality. In 2017, a pilot program was implemented in the McLaren Vale region where a new salinity monitoring network was designed to measure salinity from licensed bores in aquifers that are used for viticulture irrigation. These new salinity data are augmenting the existing state‑funded salinity surveillance network.
The program comprised a mail-out to each landholder that included an instruction letter, a map showing the location of the target bore and a labelled sample bottle. Irrigators were asked to submit their groundwater samples at a local drop-off station. The results of the analysis were sent to each irrigator in an email that also contained a link to DEW’s public environmental database Enviro Data SA where all of the state’s environmental data can be viewed in a variety of formats.
Of the 83 parcels sent to McLaren Vale irrigators, 65 groundwater samples (78%) were received. Results helped to confirm the presence of localised ‘hot spots’ of increasing salinity caused by inter‑aquifer leakage. In early 2018, following completion of the pilot program, the network was extended to the Barossa Valley region. Of the 103 parcels sent to Barossa Valley irrigators, 86 (83%) of samples were submitted. In 2019, the program has been further extended to the Angas Bremer region.
The information gained from this program will help improve the quality of annual reporting of the resource status and aid in identifying emerging risks and focus any subsequent management actions. Other potential benefits include strengthening of professional relationships between irrigators and DEW staff charged with managing groundwater resources and greater stakeholder engagement in water planning and management.