The plight of the River Murray
Over much of last year and all of this year the media in Australia have highlighted the terrible plight of the River Murray. The concern is for the whole of the Murray-Darling basin which makes up one-seventh of the continent. A large percentage of Australia’s population relies directly on this vast basin for its water supply or the food produced directly from the water taken for irrigation.
The plight of this river system really came home to me a few days ago when we had a picnic lunch at Swanport Reserve just a few kilometres south of Murray Bridge. The reserve is a ten minute drive from home. The above photo clearly shows that the water level has dropped about a metre below its normal level.
Now a drop of a metre may not seem very much compared with most other river systems, but in this case it is indicative of a very serious problem. Last month, the inflow into the river system was the lowest ever recorded for over 80 years. That lowest ever figure comes after more than 12 months of record low inflows.
The river system is fast running out of water. Some major reservoirs are at all time record low capacities; two of the largest are below 10% capacity.
Severe water restrictions in many parts of Australia are having some effect. Some decent falls of rain in recent weeks have not really eased the situation. What is needed is three to five years of above average rainfall coupled with significant snow falls in the catchment areas.