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CHAPTER 13

Floods or Keyline?

 

  FERTILE soil grows good grasses and crops, which in turn feed andmake healthy animals. The products from these things are the dominating factors inthe health of the community. Poor soil grows poor grass, poor crops and animals,and these have a detrimental effect on the health of the people.

  The vast difference in the flavour of salad vegetables grown on fertileand infertile soil should have been noted by everyone. The products of fertile soilsustain healthful life. The growth from poor soil is only suited to be again absorbedinto the soil to help cure the ills of the soil.

  The good farmer, by cherishing and improving the fertility of hisown particular soil, is safeguarding the basic factors of the health and prosperityof every section of any community. At the same time he is in the first line of thegeneral fight against disease.

  Fertile soil is the basic factor in the health of the community. Itis also of the greatest importance to the safety of all the land; it resists to anastounding degree the forces of soil erosion.

  There are many other causes of soil erosion than those which may originatefrom the actions of our few generations of farmers and graziers. While no one generationof farmers caused a significant amount of soil erosion, the accumulation of soildamages from past generations have manifested themselves in greater soil movementsin this last generation. The forces of erosion are accelerating.

  Whenever run-off water is artificially concentrated, an erosion hazardis created. The damages from public roads and other sources completely outside theresponsibility of the farmers and graziers cause widespread erosions on the farmers'own lands. Government stock routes and forests are not free from erosion. A bushfirefrom any cause is always a hazard. A careless camper, a cigarette from a motorist,a spark from a railway engine-all are serious in accelerating soil erosion.

  There is, however, no doubt that concerted actions by the communityof farmers and graziers could do more in much less time to stop erosion and the shockinglydevastating floods, than all the authorities concerned, even with unlimited money.

  It would take at least two years for the various authorities who wouldbe concerned to agree on any plan. The work could have been completed by the farmersin that time. They would incidentally have increased the value of their land andmade additional profit.

  To be quite specific, if the Keyline plan was adopted by the farmersand graziers of the Hunter River Valley, the result would be certain and rapid.

  Every farmer and grazier would enrich himself greatly by the resultingincreased value of his land and the better quality of his farm yields. The wholeof the Hunter River and its eroding banks and flats would be, protected by the farmer'swork on his own land. Devastating floods would not occur again at such importantpopulation centres as Maitland or any other town on the river. Clear water wouldflow in the river all the year round and the flow would be more even and constant.

  If we assume that the ancient flow of generally clearer water wascompatible with the early better anchorages in Newcastle Harbour, may not a new flowof cleaner water result in gradually clearing the harbour, instead of the presentcontinually increasing depositions of silt? Would not a constantly greater flow ofcleaner water result in the removal of recently deposited silt from the lower reachesof the river?

  All the huge water conservation projects and all the special damsfor flood mitigation will not hold as much water as the land itself if all the soilis kept in a condition to absorb the rain when it comes. Dams for flood control areeffective if they remain only partly filled, so that large potential storage is alwaysavailable to act as huge shock absorbers for the floods.

  To this new vast water storage capacity of the soil we must add theeffect to be obtained from the Keyline dams, the High Contour dams and the othersdiscussed in this book.

  These dams, constructed as they are for use whenever required, withtheir pipe and valve outlets to provide water at the turn of a large tap, will forma tremendous buffer against floods. The conserved water is second only in low costirrigation to the rain itself. The Australian drought-breaking flooding rains willthen find a huge capacity in the farmers' dams ready to offset their intensity anddestructive force. The drought will surely have warranted the use of the water ofthese dams and their capacity will be available for the flood rains.

  From geological evidence it is apparent that floods did occur beforethe farming and grazing practices of our few generations of farmers greatly reducedthe capacity of the land to absorb rainfall and retard the sudden flood. It is justas apparent that no rains of recent decades should have caused so much destruction.In this geological age of lower rainfall and drier conditions, every drop of water,including the rains that now cause our floods, should and could be used in the productionof better soil. The soil would probably be better than that which previously existedin the Hunter River Valley.

  These remarks are not a suggestion that the Keyline plan will in effectput the clock back one hundred and fifty years, nor is it suggested that the valleysand streams of this important river watershed will revert to their former state asregards the cleanness of the river flow and the reduction of the quick destroyingflood. No! Much more than this is feasible. The whole of the land will rapidly becomemore fertile and absorbent than it ever was. The heights which the floods reachedone hundred and fifty years ago, which were perhaps much less than those of to-day,would probably not be reached again.

  There is no doubt that, at the moment, great flood dangers exist.There is also no doubt that projects of a national character in the constructionof many flood control structures would greatly mitigate the danger of the big floods.

  These works cost sums of money that to the ordinary mind are quitefantastic. They require for their finance a toll on the whole of the community. Theycover with water large areas of very valuable land.

  From a practical business point of view, where is the flood controlproblem, or any other problem for that matter, if a highly profitable solution isfound!

  Against the Keyline picture of almost absolute control, we have theever-present menace of the big flood with something much more than a possibilitythat a flood larger than the previous worst one could occur at any time with littlewarning. The only other hope of protection, which lies in the very remote future,is the construction of fabulously costly Government projected flood control dams.If and when sufficient of these are constructed they would not have as great a combinedwater storage capacity as that which can be had at very little cost in the soil itselfby Keyline Absorption-fertility.

  The reason why soil erosion control or soil conservation has not beenaccepted by a very large percentage of land owners is simply that these matters arenot always good business. Too often it is something to be attempted reluctantly andpostponed very easily. The approach is negative, the cost real, and the profit remote.

  The phrase "Prevent erosion and save the soil that is left"lacks inspiration.

  Why not, as far as the farmer and grazier is concerned, forget erosion.

  Instead, build better soil structure, improve soil fertility, make,manufacture and create deeper, more fertile soil just by providing soil with thecapacity to absorb fertility. If a sheet eroded area or an erosion gully is in thepath of the better soil drive, convert it; engulf it in the waves of fertility.

  If a Shire Council or the Main Roads' Board is causing large quantitiesof water to be diverted on to the farmer's land, thereby causing destruction, diffuseit, disperse it, absorb and conserve it in dams. It may be dirty water, but it iswater. It is the greatest factor, as far as the average Australian farmer is concerned,in fertile soil development and better yield.

  The failure generally to treat agriculture in its entirety by sectionalisingand subsectionalising too much with inadequate means of proper coordination has ledto a completely unnatural and artificial basic approach to land matters. The soilhas been lost looking for the crop. The land is being lost while only three or fourinches of topsoil is used. Improving and progressively increasing the depth of thesoil is the first basis of any permanent yield improvement. Any and all other meansof improvement may then logically follow.

  Absorption-fertility is real fertility. It is not doctored nor druggedsoil.

  It is the great privilege and responsibility of the farmer to givehimself, his family and the community the benefit in health and wellbeing to whichthey are entitled from The Fertile Soil.



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