Workshop Focuses on the Murray River Future

Tuesday, 25 November, 2008

ALA PDP 2008 071_lrThe future of the Murray River system is in the balance – and is now at the top of Australia’s water resources management agenda.

In light of that, ICE WaRM’s Living Laboratories programme staged a workshop in Adelaide in October to examine the prospects for the future of the Murray-Darling.

The workshop – titled ‘Science to Develop an Adaptive Management System for the River Murray’ – explored what is needed to create a real time management system for the river to deliver water to key assets and users, and to maintain water quality.

It also looked at the research which was needed to create a sustainable river system.

Among the issues the workshop examined were ways South Australia can maintain:

  • a reliable water supply for regional towns and Adelaide
  • water quality within acceptable standards – including salinity and algal bloom controls
  • water for environmental purposes – especially in icon sites, flood plains and wetlands
  • irrigation water
  • recreational water
  • water for industry
  • water for infrastructure – such as jetties, marinas and ferries
  • water for cultural needs
  • water to prevent acidification of the Lower Lakes

Attendees were told that in its natural state the Murray was completely different from today’s regulated river.

During severe droughts, it sometimes was reduced to a chain of saline waterholes and seawater infiltrated the Lower Lakes when the river flows were at their lowest.

At the same time, Adelaide and South Australia remains dependent on water from the river.

In most years, Adelaide draws more than 40% of its water from the Murray. During droughts, this dependence increases to more than 90%. And, although measures are being put in place to reduce this dependence, South Australia will continue to rely heavily on water from the Murray.

Since the completion of Hume Dam in 1936, a continuous flow has been maintained along the length of the Murray, at least to Wellington – although there have been significant periods with
no river flow at the Murray Mouth.

The current drought has shown that even with storages and regulation, extended dry conditions could make it difficult to keep the required quantity and quality of water flowing to South Australia.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority is now developing long-term strategies to maintain the river’s flow and water quality – balancing this with the needs of water users throughout the system.

Click here to download a background discussion paper or here for the presentation from the workshop.