Buronga salt interception scheme

Buronga was declared a township in 1937, though settlement in the area commenced in the 1920s. Irrigation has been undertaken in the area for many years, producing a range of high value horticultural crops – citrus, table grapes, wine grapes, nuts, apples and other crops.

Investigations undertaken by the NSW Office of Water in the 1970s identified groundwater movement around the Mildura Weir as the major contributor to the salt load in the Murray River, immediately downstream of the weir. The main mechanism of saline groundwater seepage to the river is the up-welling of deeper saline groundwater in response to the vertical hydraulic pressure resulting from the head difference between the upstream and downstream river levels at the weir.

Where is Buronga?

The Buronga Salt Interception Scheme is located in the south west of New South Wales, along the banks of the Murray River between Mildura Weir (Lock 11) and Mourquong.

How does the scheme work?

A series of eight groundwater bores with submersible pumps have been installed along the section of the Murray where the saline water is believed to be entering the river. The submersible pumps are located in the deeper Parilla Sands aquifer. Saline water is pumped from this aquifer to lower the pressure that is driving the saline water into the river. By lowering the pressure in the aquifer, the gradient is reversed away from the river. The intercepted saline water is pumped approximately 7km to the Mourquong disposal complex.

The Buronga scheme is part of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority's Basin Salinity Management Strategy developed to manage the problems of river salinity, waterlogging and land salinisation in the Basin.

Why is there a problem?

The salinity problem is caused by the construction of the Mildura Weir and Lock and the groundwater mounding under the nearby irrigation areas (Mildura-Merbein, Buronga and Coomealla). These activities have increased the pressures in the Parilla Sands aquifer system, resulting in the displacement of saline groundwater from that aquifer to the Murray River on the downstream side of the weir, over a reach of approximately 3.5km.

What will the scheme achieve?

The Buronga scheme will intercept the deeper Parrilla Sands aquifer and prevent approximately 17,500 tonnes of salt from entering the Murray River annually. This scheme together with the companion Mildura-Merbein scheme located in Victora, contribute approximately 14 EC benefit to the river at Morgan, South Australia. The scheme has been designed as an efficient and effective component of a regional ‘no borders’ approach to salinity management in the Sunraysia Region.

The scheme also provides a major socio-economic benefit to the region, by providing the raw material (saline groundwater) necessary for the successful salt harvesting operation located at the Morquong basin.

Who operates the schemes?

The original scheme was funded by the NSW Government in 1979. The NSW Government and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority funded the refurbishment and upgrade of the scheme in 2005. The department is the constructing authority for Murray River works and has the overall responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the scheme.

The operation and maintenance costs are shared between the NSW Governement (71 per cent) and MDBA (29 per cent). This cost share arrangement is proportional to the EC credit benefits to the two partner governments.

Benefits at a glance


  • Improved water quality and the provision of stock and domestic water for downstream users of the Murray River.


  • Secures horticultural industries in the region
  • Enhanced regional employment opportunities.

Basin wide

  • Reduced overall salinity levels in the Murray River as measured at Morgan, South Australia.