The Murray River
The Murray River is the major tributary in arguably Australia's most important river system, the Murray Darling Basin. The river rises in the Snowy Mountains in south-eastern Australia and flows westward for some 2,500km through rugged mountain country, across the vast Riverine Plain, through mallee landscapes, the lower lakes and the Coorong to empty into the Southern Ocean in South Australia. For much of its upper course the Murray River forms the boundary between the states of New South Wales and Victoria.
The Murray River supports a range of diverse riverine and aquatic ecosystems, and is the life blood for many communities and agricultural industries along its length.
The Murray River and most of its major tributaries are regulated rivers, where dams and weirs capture and store water for future diversion downstream to support irrigated agriculture, secondary industries and cities and towns. The Murray Darling Basin is the most productive agricultural area of Australia, and is largely dependent on water supplies for irrigated crops and pastures.
River regulation and associated vegetation clearing for agriculture, has come at a cost to the natural environment of the Murray. The area of healthy wetlands has been greatly reduced with many being isolated from the very flows that sustain them. The scale and diversity of population of native species of plants and animals on the river and its floodplain systems has declined along with an increase in introduced pests and predators. Rising levels of salinity threaten the quality and productivity of the river, particularly in its lower reaches and the recent drought has taken a dramatic toll on a river system already under pressure.
Governments have sought to redress some of the imbalance created by changes in flow patterns after regulation through the targeting of recovery and release of environmental water in the Murray system.
Of the 282,000 ML of water that will be recovered by Water for Rivers, 70,000 ML will be provided to the Murray River system. Management of this parcel of environmental water will be coordinated with environmental flows released as part of the Living Murray program.
The Living Murray initiative was commenced in 2004 and is the largest environmental water recovery program in Australia.
More information on the Living Murray initiative can be sourced from the Murray Darling Basin Authority website at www.mdba.gov.au/programs/tlm