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Science of the Basin

The connection of great rivers that snake through Australia, the Murray–Darling Basin, has a diverse ecological footprint with science and local knowledge guiding the management of the river system.

In a world-first, four states and a territory came together and agreed to manage the Basin as a connected system. They made this decision with the agreement that science and evidence would guide decisions.

The organisations involved in running the Basin use science to look ahead and predict future scenarios. We don’t always know what the future holds, so many different scenarios and models are tested and trialled. The health of the Basin is monitored regularly, and results guide future decisions.

Local knowledge is vital for managing the rivers. Locals know their river better than anyone. This is more than gut instinct—many people have grown up watching the river patterns and taking stock of their local climate and environment.

World-leading science, world-leading management

The Murray–Darling Basin is managed across four states and a territory—Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and South Australia.

Up and down the rivers, scientific data is constantly being collected and analysed including information on water quality, vegetation, birds, fish, and animals of the Basin.

This is a world-first. Using the best science, evidence and knowledge is vital to managing such a diverse and complex system.

Data collection also includes considering the trends around communities and industries—the people and production of the Basin.

Future science, future management

When looking ahead and planning for Australia’s future, science can make predictions and consider different scenarios for the health and production of the rivers.

The people that run the rivers use ‘models’ to simulate a range of possible future scenarios and consider how different rainfall, evaporation and climate could impact on river flows.

Governments use research in many fields, including economics, hydrology, ecology and resilience, water governance and law, sociology and sustainable systems.

Climate change studies have found the Basin’s climate is likely to become drier and more variable. There may be more extreme droughts and floods.

Local knowledge, local management

All over the Basin, more and more people are getting involved and having their say in local water management.

People are sharing their deep history and knowledge of the rivers, and this local knowledge helps guide decisions.

Many communities are involved in looking after their local wetlands, lakes, streams or rivers. Locals are involved in caring for these special places. This includes monitoring and collecting important scientific data.

The health of the Basin benefits from meaningful partnerships. Traditional Owners are involved in water research, planning and management through equitable, inclusive and respectful partnerships.

Updated: 24 Sep 2020