Introduction

The Beacon River Catchment is located in the north-eastern wheatbelt of Western Australia within the Yilgarn sub-catchment of the Swan-Avon River Basin.

Starting in the north of the Shire of Mukinbudin, the Beacon River Catchment covers about 267,000 hectares in the Shire of Mt Marshall, around 300 km north-east of Perth.

The average annual rainfall of 300mm is considered marginal for cropping, making the catchment sensitive to droughts, while the influence of equatorial cyclonic activity periodically extends far enough south to affect the catchment, resulting in heavy summer rainfall and flood events.

The average annual gross value of agricultural production in the Shire of Mt Marshall for the years 1996-2000 was $61.1 million (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics). Around half ($30 million) could be attributed to the Beacon River Catchment which extends across approximately 50% of the area of the farmland in the Shire of Mt Marshall.

Since clearing of trees and scrub began in the catchment in the early 1900’s to make way for the production of annual crops and pastures, broad scale wheat and sheep farming operations have been developed to the extent that less than 10% of the original native vegetation has survived.

In 1985, the Western Australian Department of Agriculture developed 30 shallow bores (piezometers) in the Beacon River Catchment. Monitoring of those bores over time has created an awareness of rising groundwaters in the lower reaches of parts of the catchment. The extreme rainfall events experienced in 1999 - 2000 caused serious flooding and water logging and death of vegetation. Investigation of the need for engineering intervention resulted in the development of The Beacon River Catchment Salinity Management Project.

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