Dryland salinity is one of the most pressing land management problems in Western Australia. A number of projects are in progress to provide a more comprehensive picture of the location and extent of potentially saline areas in the landscape. Associated with some of these projects, a large number of bores (piezometers) have been installed or are being installed throughout the agricultural area to provide information on depth to groundwater and changes in water levels over time. These bores provide information about whether and when the ground water will reach the surface, causing losses of agricultural production through salinisation of soils. Using data from the Jerramungup Land Conservation District (LCD) we explore factors influencing the behaviour of farmers in monitoring or not monitoring their bores. In 1989, 110 bores were sunk in seven catchments in the Jerramungup LCD. Monitoring responses were initially exceptionally high, with 96 percent of bores observed in 1990, but then fell steadily to 44 percent by 1997. Our statistical analysis indicates that the probability that a bore will be monitored decreases with time but is influenced by physical factors (reflecting economic incentives) such as the depth to groundwater, the salt stored in the soil and the interaction between these variables. As well as these physical factors, we explore some of the sociological and economic factors that influence farmers’ bore monitoring behaviour. Farm size, age, education, involvement in land conservation groups and perception of the threat posed by salinity all affect the frequency of monitoring. Monitoring is also more frequent when farmers are using it to assess management strategies they have implemented to attempt to reduce groundwater rise. Overall, the study provides strong empirical support for the view that economic incentives provide the main impetus for monitoring of groundwaters in this region, although the study confirms that social factors also play a role.


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