May 19 – Kelly

We have reached day nine in Australia and it’s honestly hard to believe nine days have already passed. Everyone in the group is having a great time and we all have been thoroughly enjoying our time here! We have been through Adelaide, explored Calperum Station, and we are now experiencing the beautiful town of Mildura.

Mildura, Victoria

Mildura, Victoria

Mildura has a rather unique connection to the “States.” In the 1800’s the Chaffey Brothers, originally from Canada, came to Australia to start Mildura’s booming agriculture business. They studied irrigation techniques with agriculture systems in California and brought their knowledge to what is now Mildura. In 1887 the brothers signed an agreement with the Australian government to begin a large-scale irrigation system for Southern Australia. With Mildura’s hot but mild climate, access to the extensive Murray River, and a vast amount of crop options, this area of Australia exploded with growth in the agriculture industry. Mildura now accounts for 60% of Australia’s wine exports, and contributes fresh produce like oranges, table grapes, and olives. This town has a great history, and one of the most important pieces to its great success is the Murray River. We were able to experience this river first hand through a canoeing/kayaking trip down a section of the Murray with the Wild Side Outdoors company.

We woke up to a beautiful morning in Mildura, all very excited to see where we would start our canoeing trip. The bus left for the river early morning and it took about 20-30 minutes to get to the canoeing site. We were given a brief summary of the Murray River and its history by Allan Hassell, owner and operator of Wild Side Outdoors, followed by a very flattering life jacket. We loaded up into the canoes, two people per canoe, and went down the river for 6 kilometers. This was one of the most beautiful days I have ever had the luxury to do any canoeing, bright and hot sun with really great people. This 6 kilometer canoe trip lasted about 3-4 hours, and it was one of the more memorable things that we have done on this trip so far. We had some canoe races, learned about the extensive bird life, and found that this river supplies the majority of the water for all of Southern Australia (not just South Australia the state).

Most of the group waiting for the rest of us to get into our kayaks... it wasn't as easy to get in them as we thought!

Most of the group waiting for the rest of us to get into our kayaks… it wasn’t as easy to get in them as we thought!

In addition to the Murray River supplying the majority of the water for Southern Australia, this river is extremely important for bird life, fisheries, and it sustains the health of the human population. It’s the 7th largest river in the world, and it’s health is majorly declining, which has had some serious effects on the dependents listed above. The Murray is naturally a freshwater river system, but due to heavy agricultural irrigation pumping and overuse of the water, the river has started to turn saline. Now when a freshwater river turns into a saltwater river the water chemistry changes, the wildlife migrates away, and the humans depending on that source have to find new ways to harvest water. Since the Murray river was so overused and its changing health was neglected, the people dependent on the river now have to look at reversing their effects to restore the health of the river. From kayaking down the river, the salinity problem was noticeable even for foreigners like ourselves. Below are two images of some of us kayaking, but what is really worth noting is how some of the trees in the water are dead. A combination of high salinity and too much water have killed the trees, which is a very common problem we saw kayaking down the river.

Notice the trees that are dead are the ones isolated in the water, they have been killed by the high salinity and have essentially "drowned" in the water

Notice the trees that are dead are the ones isolated in the water, they have been killed by the high salinity and have essentially “drowned” in the water

Trees that have died in the salty water, yet there is still a pelican enjoying the view!

Trees that have died in the salty water, yet there is still a pelican enjoying the view!

There are some negatives we encountered along the Murray river no doubt, but below are some pictures that show just how much fun we all really had!

Jessica and Kelly (myself) excited to start kayaking!

Jessica and Kelly (myself) excited to start kayaking!

Kayaking through King's Billabong, a section off of the Murray river that we explored

Kayaking through King’s Billabong, a section off of the Murray river that we explored

Aligning our kayaks for some group races down the Murray, with 3-4 kayaks in each team

Aligning our kayaks for some group races down the Murray, with 3-4 kayaks in each team

After this exciting 6 mile excursion we docked our kayaks on a beach down the river and continued our day with a tour of the local Sun Salt Farm.

The first question that could come to mind about the Sun Salt Farm might be, what is it? Well it’s exactly like what it sounds like; this is a site just outside Mildura that mines the salt out of the local groundwater system. Our tour guide blank joined us on our bus as she gave us a guided tour of the Salt Farm. She shared with us the process, environmental benefits, and the story behind salt farming. For the short version the Mildura region is the only one in the world that produces the famed “pink salt.” This pink coloring is from a natural deposit in the salt provided by the Parilla aquifer lying below the surface. The salt farm extracts this salt, some pink and some the typical white, and turns it into a commercial and local product. 40-60,000 tons of salt are produced per year, so this is a growing industry for the region. This salt producing process is important because it extracts excess salt from the Murray River Basin, which has a very serious high salinity problem. This salt farm helps the environmental, social, and economic aspects of sustainability. The process helps future generations by removing salts, and securing a better water quality for people to come. This was a really interesting experience to learn about this type of farming and sustainability, not to mention a new subject for pretty much all of us!

Sun Salt Farm tour, mined salt from a distance

Sun Salt Farm tour, mined salt from a distance

A more up close look at the mined salt, there was literally tons of it!

A more up close look at the mined salt, there was literally tons of it!

Between the kayaking tour of the Murray River and the Sun Salt Farm tour we learned a lot about the sustainability of Mildura. The Murray is in trouble when it comes to its health, which affects the environmental sustainability of Southern Australia. If the river’s health declines then the wildlife will continue to move away, and overtime the quality of the surrounding environment will diminish to a point of no return. There is a more conscious effort to preserve the quality of the river so that the environment can be sustainable for the future. The economic sustainability of Mildura was discussed in several ways today, between the Murray and the Sun Salt Farm. Without a healthy river, businesses that rely on fresh, clean water will suffer. This includes agriculture and many dams along the river that produce electricity. They both need large quantities of fresh water to continue operations that will sustain local and larger scale economies. The Sun Salt Farm is an example of a positive way to handle the natural salinity of the Parilla aquifer. The farm is creating a business that will last nearly forever, and extracting excess salts helps promote environmental sustainability as well. Lastly the social sustainability aspects of today surrounding the Murray and the Sun Salt Farm really come down to quality of life in Mildura. The people need fresh water to survive, so a society can not be sustained if one of the keys to life is not available in the long-term. The health of the Murray River is the key to a sustainable society, otherwise alternate ways of achieving fresh water must be sought out which can be expensive and environmentally damaging. The Sun Salt Farm is a small, but good example of helping social sustainability as well. It creates some jobs for the people, takes away salt from the environment, and creates a sense of pride for the community since it is the only farm of its kind! These are the types of influences on sustainability that Mildura relies on, and after learning about all these today I would say they have some work to do to guarantee a sustainable future in all aspects of life.

Overall it was an amazing day in Mildura, learning about the legendary Murray River, and the new emerging business of salt farming. As day 10 approaches we are all greatly anticipating the weeks to come! Keep following us along on our journey through the “land down under,” as we will be exploring Wagga Wagga, Sydney, and Cairns!

Sources:

http://www.murrayriversalt.com.au/

This website gives all information regarding the Sun Salt Farm, very useful for further knowledge.

http://www.mildura.com/

Here you can find out general information about the Mildura area, including tourism, local economies, and unique things about Mildura.

http://www.visitmildura.com.au/climate.html

This website is primarily useful for tourism ideas, I used this in my pre-departure information.

http://www.wildsideoutdoors.com.au

Here is the website containing information about the kayaking tour company we used Wild Side Outdoors, Allan Hassel, owner/operator.

http://www.murrayriver.com.au/images/map/list_of_towns_maps/mildura_map.jpg – Picture of the map of Mildura.

All other pictures were obtained personally, or from my classmates!

6 Comments

6 thoughts on “May 19 – Kelly

  1. Mary Beth Kramer

    I can literally taste the fresh food and wine from your description! This area sounds so beautiful!!

  2. Kelli Kearns

    It sounds beautiful! I’ll have some of that wine too. Enjoy the rest of your trip Kel!

  3. Mary Beth Kramer

    Loved seeing all the pictures of the canoe trip!

  4. Mary Beth Kramer

    Your blog was great! I am interested in hearing more about the Sun Salt Farm – fascinating!

  5. What a beautiful picture of the salt farm you have provided, Kelly! It was so interesting to learn about why the salt is colored the way it is. It is unbelievable that the extraction pumps are running 24/7. You mentioned the environmental effects that this farm induces- what really intrigued me was the fact that the ponds that the salt comes from have become a suitable habitat for migrating birds! The tour guide also told us that there is no waste produced at the farm, which is rare for places utilizing extraction processes. Overall it seemed that this farm is really helping to sustainably take advantage of water that is too saline to be used in its untampered state.

  6. elshoffj

    This was an awesome day! I do a canoe trip or two every summer in the states so it was exciting to see the difference in wildlife. After being splashed by some other canoers I decided to jump in for a swim and realized the bottom of the river is much muckier than in Michigan. Seeing all the birds and having a surprisingly good canoe partner made this one of my favorite days so far.

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