Fitzgerald River Catchment Demonstration Initiative

Catchment Demonstration Initiative background

A total of $6 million was committed to developing salininty management demonstration projects in four Western Australian catchments, West Koojan Gillingarra, Upper Coblinine, Wallatin-O'Brien and Fitzgerald River, under the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality, jointly funded by the Federal and State Governments.

Fitzgerald River Catchment

The Fitzgerald River catchment is located approximately 20km east of Jerramungup townsite and approximately 400 km south east of Perth. The total catchment encompasses an area of 104,000 hectares of which 35% is cleared of native vegetation for the purposes of agriculture. The largest portion of the catchment is contained in the Fitzgerald River National Park and this portion remains in pristine or near pristine condition in respect to natural vegetation.

Fitzgerald River Catchment Demonstration Initiative

The Fitzgerald River Catchment Demonstration Initiative (CDI) project aims to demonstrate how a combination of integrated, salinity management practices in a given catchment can lead to the recovery of saline land and water, the restriction of further salinisation and allow profitable use of saline landscapes.

Three sub-catchments, Jacup, CBH and Susetta, within the Fitzgerald River National Park were selected for monitoring and evaluation. The FRCDI project commenced in 2004 and is in it's final year.

A total of $1.2 million was committed to the project under the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality, jointly funded by the Federal and State Governments.

Project Strategies

The strategies employed in this Catchment Demonstration Initiative have been identified as the most effective to use in this particular landscape to target catchment scale works to recover, contain or adapt salt affected land. Whilst many of the strategies suggested have been demonstrated in small scale individual projects in the past, they have never been applied at a whole of catchment scale using an integrated and coordinated approach.

The strategies include a range of revegetation options such as perennial pastures, long seasoned annual pastures, summer crops, farm forestry, revegetation, earthworks, a deep drainage investigation, stock crossings, fencing and soil ameliorants.

The CDI project recognise that the "works" undertaken need to maintain and improve farm profit to ensure economic viability and thus protect the local capital required to invest in long term protection of our local native resources.

The results from the Fitzgerald River CDI project aims to be transferable to other areas with similar soil landscape units and is envisaged to provide whole of catchment salinity management options.

Achievements to date

Since project inception, landholders have made steady progress on their work plans. Highlights of the Fitzgerald River Catchment Demonstration Project to date include;

  • 2500 Ha of Perennial Pastures established.
  • 1000 Ha Long Seasoned Annual pastures planted.
  • 180 Ha of Saline Lands have been revegetated
  • 70 Ha of Revegetation completed.
  • 20 Km of surface water management earthworks have been surveyed and constructed
  • Over 1300 Ha of soil amelioration has been undertaken.
  • 75 km of fencing has been constructed.
  • Catchment landholder, Geoff Bee winning the GSDC Natural Resource Management award
  • Sodic, Dispersive, Clay treatment site within catchment to evaluate treatment options.
  • Establishment and monitoring of 3 Deep Drains.
  • Collaboration with CSIRO – project to use remote sensing to identify crop and pasture types as precursor to developing yield maps for assessing nutrient requirements and removal.
  • Gatton Panic Trial and Evergreen Southern Pasture Mix Site – Over-cropping Year 2.
  • Acid/Saline - Soil Rehabilitation Trial
  • Extensive testing of drinking water quality in an attempt to link environmental health with human health.

The setting up of a solid Monitoring and Evaluation framework has been a major focus of the project. The FRCDI is very keen to asses, at project completion what "works", have resulted in change in resource conditions in the catchment and as such have the following M & E "up and running" to collect some good base-line data for comparative purposes:

  • Network of Piezometers installed in the catchment and monitored on a regular basis.
  • Photo point monitoring sites have been established to gain visual insight of potential change.
  • CSIRO Nutrient Balance sites have been re-established in our selected drainage lines and continually monitored to assess changes in Phosphorous, Nitrogen, Turbidity, Salinity, pH levels and flow rates.
  • Local lime quality analyses completed.
  • Cost/benefit analysis of Saltland Pasture site.
  • Run-off plots in the catchment to monitor transport processes of Phosphorous in our soils.
  • Catchment scale soil sampling has been completed and will be used as benchmark to monitor change to soil health.
  • Bi-annual monitoring of catchment streams for in-stream biodiversity changes.
  • Pastures from Space monitoring have been set-up for 16 individual Landholders to allow them to measure individual pasture/density changes at a farm scale.
  • Deep Drainage monitoring package has been set-up to evaluate the impacts of acidic drain water discharge on the surrounding environment.

Community Contribution

Funds provided by the Fitzgerald River CDI project ($1.2 million) must be equally matched by landholder through cash contributions and or in-kind contributions. It has been easy to recognise that landholders enthusiastically contribute a lot more than their required share and with our "buy local' policy, projects such as ours provide a large stimulus to the local economy.

The accelerated nature of the Catchment Demonstration Initiative has made for positive community changes in the understanding of local systems, motivation and on ground implementation. It has created a culture of learning amongst landholders and added to community problem solving skills.

The Management Committee recognise the limitations in their technical knowledge and have developed collaborative relationships with research institutions and government agencies. They visit the community on a regular basis stimulating the local hospitality economy.

The project employs a local resident as a project manager.

Further Information

Please contact Julie Morandini at the Fitzgerald Biosphere Group on 08 9835 1127 or

Implementation Partners

  • Fitzgerald Biosphere Group
  • South Coast Natural Resource Management
  • Fitzgerald River landholders
  • Department of Agriculture and Food
  • Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation
  • Shire of Jerramungup
  • Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management
  • Department of Water
  • Department of Environment and Conservation

Pictures of Fitzgerald/Sussetta River lower catchment - courtesy Andy Chapman



























Acid/Saline Rehabilitation Trial - Deep Drain - Lucerne pasture





Monitoring and Evaluation is a major component of the Fitzgerald River CDI.