Skip to main content
Go to search page

Climate change is the Basin's biggest challenge

Key findings in the 2021 State of the Environment report identify climate change as a threat to the Murray–Darling Basin's water resources.
Published: 26 August 2022

Diagram of key elements in water management, including farm run-off, unsustainable water use and drought.
Key findings from 2021 State of the Environment – inland water report

The recent release of the State of Environment (SOE) Report by Australian Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek provides a stark account on the state of Australia’s environment and water resources, including the Murray–Darling Basin.   

The report showed climate change threatens our water resources. Water use, especially irrigation, while an important part of the regional economy, is also placing major pressure on Australia’s river health.  

Australian water use has decreased since 2016, mainly as a result of the dry conditions. The report indicated less water came from surface-water sources, and more came from groundwater and desalinated water. Pressure on groundwater sources is expected to increase with climate change and will require specific management approaches.  

The report also recommended better water management is essential to the future vitality of our waterways. Balancing competing interests, stronger engagement with First Nations and addressing climate change are all key areas of focus.   

The report outlined some progress had been made on the implementation of water resources management plans, including the Murray–Darling Basin Plan. However, the report indicated First Nations input into water management remains limited and requires further efforts.   

Water quality is generally good in the Basin, however, the 2019–20 bushfires did have an impact causing high levels of sediment and ash to flow into the system contaminating the rivers and water sources.   

Federal, state and territory government agencies have continued to make data and information publicly available, however, the report recommended further coordination is needed to assist stakeholders and water users to make well-informed decisions.  

The State of the Environment report is an independent, comprehensive, and evidence-based assessment of the state of Australia’s environment. For more information, the full report can be viewed on the State of the Environment website

Share this page

Subscribe for regular updates