Skip to main content
Go to search page

Complexities of the Basin

The system of rivers, lakes and wetlands that run through our nation (the Murray–Darling Basin) is complex, diverse and dynamic. There is nothing simple about it. For those managing water it’s a challenge they navigate through every day.

There are many people who use water for their business needs – including manufacturing, small businesses, farmers, and tourism operators. Communities also have different experiences and needs – consider a town at the beginning of a river compared to a town at the end of the river. Environmentally, the Basin is extremely diverse and issues like feral pests, salinity, and climate change all impact on the health of the rivers.

Managing a system that is so diverse and has many competing needs is challenging, but it’s worth it. Water is a precious resource in Australia, and we all need to work together to understand and manage the complex and connected system that is the Murray–Darling Basin.

Peta Derham, General Manager, Ecohydrology

Complexities of the Murray–Darling Basin.

Changing rivers, changing economy.

A complex system of water markets allow users to buy and sell water, sometimes from region to region.

Agriculture is constantly changing, with farmers using modern technologies and systems, and also focusing on meeting changing consumer demands and expectations.

Tourism is developing at the fast pace, with an increase of $3.8 billion in just five years, to $11 billion annually.

Fishing has become a major economic driver, with 11,000 people employed in the sector.

Rivers. Worth it

Changing rivers, changing people

There are 150,000 more people living in the Basin compared to five years ago, bringing the total population to 2.3 million.

People who have grown up with their stretch of river understand it and the way it flows in a way that no one else can. Local knowledge and management is vital.

Each town and community is different. Some communities have thriving agricultural, tourism and manufacturing sectors – other communities are struggling to maintain employment options and keep young people in town.

Every community has views about their stretch of the river. From Goondiwindi to Dubbo, from Mildura to Corowa, from Horsham to Renmark – no two communities or rivers are the same.

Rivers. Worth it

Changing rivers, changing environment

Each section of river responds differently, and has its own unique mini-ecosystem. The rivers are connected, and environmental changes can cause impacts along the whole system.

Some parts of the river are havens for waterbird nesting, other parts are ideal for fish breeding, while some stretches provide the sustenance which all the animals rely on. In a connected system, each section often has distinct environmental purpose and need.

Across the rivers, there are a range of complex issues regarding water quality and salinity. In 2016–17, 1.84 million tonnes of salt was flushed out to sea through the Murray mouth.

Climate change is impacting on the rivers in different ways. Rainfall patterns are changing, along with water flows and temperature.

Updated: 26 Apr 2022