Drought in the Murray-Darling Basin
The Murray-Darling Basin is a massive water catchment area that includes the River Murray. The area recently experienced the worst drought since records began in 1891.
What is the Murray-Darling basin?
The Murray-Darling Basin is a one million sq km water catchment area stretching over parts of South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, the ACT and Queensland.
The Basin is home to 11 per cent of Australia’s population and 20 major rivers including the Darling, the Murray and the Murrumbidgee.
A large area of the Basin is flat, although it also contains some of Australia’s highest mountains. Rain and melted snow from these areas feed water to the Murray and Darling rivers.
How do recent years of drought affect South Australia?
South Australia, the driest state, is located at the end of the river system. We need large amounts of water to flow into the River Murray from upstream so that we have enough water to look after the environment, to live on and to run our farms and businesses.
In recent years, the River Murray system received extremely low inflows. During the prolonged drought period the record low amount of water flowing into the state meant there was less water available for all users. Nearly 4000 South Australian irrigators source their water from the River Murray and their supply was severely restricted, causing hardship for the environment, agricultural and horticultural industries and regional communities.
Rain in South Australia does not necessarily solve the problem of how much water flows into the River Murray. As the river gets its water from the Murray-Darling Basin above the border, we need high rainfall over a long period of time in the right interstate catchment areas so that storages can fill up. These storages feed the Murray and help the river system to work properly.
What will happen in the future and how will the water be shared?
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is developing a strategic basin-wide plan. The purpose of this plan is the sustainable management of the surface water and ground water resources of the Murray-Darling Basin.