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The Murray River runs – for now

Kids having a swim in the Murray River

The Murray-Darling needs a long-term sustainable plan to restore the Basin to a healthy condition that can be maintained for future generations. The national significance of the Murray & Darling river systems— our lifeblood — cannot be underestimated.

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan (‘the plan’) as it currently stands dedicates $1.8 billion to the recovery of 3,200 billion litres of water for the rivers, wetlands and floodplains of the Basin. This should enable 65 per cent of river health targets to be achieved and keep the world-renowned Coorong estuary alive.

ACF is working towards improving the outcomes of the plan and our priority at the moment is ensuring that environmental water – water that has been set aside for the environment – is used as efficiently and effectively as possible. 

We are also keen to see the gradual removal of the many physical, policy and operational constraints to environmental water delivery. These constraints to environmental water delivery currently set an upper limit on the amount of water that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and the state and federal governments are prepared to set aside for the environment. Without addressing this upper limit, it is unlikely that the current or future governments will be persuaded to adopt more ambitious targets for river health.

With a new federal government, Simon Birmingham steps into the role of Parliamentary Secretary with special responsibility for water, including the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Senator Birmingham is a South Australian with a long history of interest in the Murray-Darling Basin and he brings a wealth of experience to the role. We look forward to working with all of our colleagues and counterparts across the Murray-Darling Basin during the important implementation phase of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan which was signed into law at the end of 2012.

The rivers are a water source for Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the ACT, and are vital to Australia’s environmental and economic prosperity

We all depend on healthy rivers which are not poisoned by salt. The best protection for our farming, regional and metropolitan communities is to keep our lifeblood flowing. The Murray-Darling needs a long-term sustainable plan to restore the Basin to a healthy condition that can be maintained for future generations. The national significance of the Murray & Darling river systems— our lifeblood — cannot be underestimated. 

By the end of the last drought, decades of unsustainable water use had left the river so weak that its mouth closed over and the Coorong became five times saltier than the sea

The salty water left native flora and fauna struggling to survive and made for the ideal breeding ground for invasive tube worms, which attached themselves to the shells of native freshwater turtles. These bulky parasites weighed down many of the turtles so that they suffocated and drowned.

Conditions were tough for communities at the river mouth, too. Tourism was all but put on hold, dairy operations dropped by 70 per cent  and more than $35 million of South Australian taxpayers’ money was spent on dredging in an effort to open up the river mouth.

We must ensure that this dire situation never happens again, no matter how severe a drought the Murray-Darling Basin might face. This is the ultimate test for the plan. Floodplain grazing, recreational fishing and tourism will benefit significantly from increased environmental flows, with major cultural benefits to Indigenous Traditional Owners. Now that the Basin has a plan with legislative force behind it, it’s up to all of us to make sure it works as well as it can, and to improve it where possible.

What can you do?

  • Check out our infographic as a guide to why we need a Basin Plan that can return our nation's lifeblood to health.
  • Donate to our campaign for a healthy Murray-Darling Basin.
  • Read the independent economic assessment of a healthy Murray-Darling Basin.

What are the key tests for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan?

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) and the federal government must ensure that the Basin Plan is fully implemented and that it guarantees to:

  1. Flush out the salt in the Murray River so the water is usable;
  2. Keep the Murray mouth open;
  3. Protect and restore the Basin’s key environmental assets and functions;
  4. Halt the decline of waterbirds, fish, red gums and other flora and fauna; and
  5. Prepare the environment so it copes much better during drought.