Wetland in dry times:

How this South Australian outback town is building a sustainable future

It’s hard to think of a worse drought than what Australia is seeing right now. But for residents of ​Renmark in South Australia​, 254 kms northeast of Adelaide, memories of The Millenium Drought in the early 2000’s still linger on. These days though, the water views in Renmark are a far cry from the dry wetland bed of two decades ago. So how is this possible in some of our dryest ever conditions?

It’s all thanks to a large-scale community collaboration of social, economic and environmental (SEE) stakeholders to form a big picture plan for the future. With ​exit grants leaving large amounts of unfarmed land, the ​SEE Renmark 2024​ Initiative was forged to bring a fresh, diversified approach to the social and economic challenges for the town, situated on the banks of the Murray. And at the heart of Renmark’s determination to become a thriving regional centre, is a thriving river.

Stepping up to play a key role in the​ SEE Renmark 2024​ Initiative is the ​Renmark Irrigation Trust (RIT)​. The RIT has blazed a way forward for the future, achieving ​Gold Certification against the International Water Stewardship Standard. A leader in the industry, the RIT are the caretakers of Renmark’s most precious asset – water.

Environmental watering is high on the priority list the RIT after the ​Nature Foundation South Australia​ first proposed a local waterhole for an ​eWater​ project back in 2013. And the results have been profound.

Environmental watering of the floodplain has seen the return of some river flows, which has worked to reduce salinity in the area. This has benefits for adjacent crops and the natural landscape. Consumers benefit from smarter and sustainable water methods as well, with less input putting more fresh and high-quality produce on our shelves.

A thriving natural wetland has also seen ripple effects across the whole town: “The community has started to get involved,” says a member of the RIT Board, “people are really positive about it. The revegetation adds appeal and adds value to the amenity of the town. There are more walkers and bike riders than 10 years ago. It’s also added value to property in the township – so there’s been a commercial outcome as well. It all works together.”

The Regional Development Australia figures tell the same story, showing three consecutive increases in the Gross Regional Product (GRP) of Renmark Paringa Council over the last three years.

The success of the Renmark Initiative has been found in big-picture thinking and genuine community leadership. It’s proof that collaboration and responsible industry can bring a town back from the brink – and achieve worldclass environmental standards along the way.

Renmark & surrounding area