River Regulation in the Murray-Darling River Basins

The Mullay-darling basin is a massive topographical area in southeastern Australia. The basin’s name is derived from the two major rivers, the Darling and Murray. It is one of the country’s most important agricultural sites, draining roughly one-seventh of the country’s dry land. The water catchment area encompasses most of Victoria, New South Wales, and Australia’s Central Territory, as well as some Queensland regions (Huitema and Meijerink 45). It covers a total area of 3,375 kilometers, with the Murray River covering 2,508 kilometers and the rest of the space being covered by the Darling River. About 1,061,469 km2 of the basin is flat, far inland and low-lying(Huitema and Meijerink 57). These areas of the pool receive little direct rainfall hence most of the waters flow from other northern parts which obtain rains. The basin is located in a very strategic position such that the many rivers it tends to have, the slower it flows. Mullay-Darling was once an inhabitant to an enormous number of Aboriginal individuals whose cultural lives and the entrance of Europeans gradually ruined values. This piece of work will describe river regulation in the Mullay-Darling basin.

Initially before the arrival of Europeans into Australia, the area around the basin was rarely regulated. The way of life of the Aboriginal people did not need any regulation programs on both rivers. The locals depended on traditional ways of earning a living such as hunting and seasonal crop production(Association. 246). The Europeans entered into the country with a great hunger for land where they introduced new ways of livestock and crop production. They did this to get raw materials for various purposes such as transport, communication and weaponry means. Presently, the basin is still a home to a large variety of the indigenous people, but hunting of these individuals has continued to decrease their population(Association. 246).The basin has been an inhabitant to tribes such as Maraura who were attacked and brutally abused causing a decline in their numbers.

The Murray-Darling river basin is conserved since it is a home to a variety of animal species. Most of the animals are the native faunas which were present even before the arrival of the Europeans. The exact number of the native faunas is yet to be discovered, but a fair estimate has been done by various researchers and government agencies. The estimates show 55 species of frogs, with 18 of these endangered, 46 types of snakes, with five of these threatened, 80 kinds of mammals where 10 of them are in danger, five sorts of tortoises and 34 classes of fish(Pearson 76). Fishes are the most endangered animals in this basin since there is either target for the fishermen or conservation purposes. Ancient archives show that the past loads of fish provided a consistent food source. However, plentiful fish became concentrated when the previous stages of an overflow left low water across the floodplain. Currently, a roughly 24 indigenous freshwater fish and other 15-25 aquatic as well as estuarine species are surviving in the basin(Pearson 79).

The visitors especially the Europeans introduced various species of animals in the basin. Four different species of carp were used to feed up fish dams. Ever since then, these species have made their way into the river channels, where they have spread very rapidly. The fish which were introduced are very flexible, they breed quickly and have the capability of surviving in low waters as well as through long durations of shallow dissolved oxygen content (Bren 17).Nevertheless, carp are a major problem since they feed by sucking chippings from the river banks and removing all the edible material out of them, before taking the waste to the water. The behavior then leads to mixing up of all sediments which minimize the quality of water. The law requires that all fishermen kill carps when they catch them up and shun away from conserving them for any other purpose (Bren 17).

There have been efforts to reduce the carps in the waters of Murray-Darling basin since these species are known to degrade the quality of water. Some of the efforts include encouraging the fishermen and other researchers to kill the carps whenever they catch them and avoid keeping them(Bren 17). The conservation plan forms one of the regulation measures available at the basin. Also, the authority responsible for regulating the Murray-darling basin has made significant efforts to eliminate the entrance of cane toads which have been making a slow entry in the upper reaches of the Darling River thus flowing into the basin. Cane toads are harmful since they are known to compete with native amphibians and are also toxic to inherent carnivores(Bren 24).The cane toads have no benefits to other animals in the basin nor to the people.

To make the management and regulation easier, the waters are divided into four basins. The first one is the darling and Lochlan basins which are regarded as a single territory. These two basins have extremely variable flows from time to time with the highest being up to ten periods of the mean while the lowest has been 1 percent of the average(Water 45). Some areas which are covered by these two basins are dry hence they receive zero rainfall. Examples of such those dry regions include Paroo, Warrego and lower darling basins hence the flows of these rivers are extremely seasonal. The northern parts receive heavy rainfalls causing floods mostly from monsoonal penetration. Most of the Lachlan and darling catchments follows typically high or low flows at the start of winter and extend to the next autumn(Water 47).There has been the high extraction of waters from these rivers for mining and irrigation reasons. The authority of the Murray-Darling basin has however made tremendous efforts to regulate the use of the waters for irrigations and mining. They have been able to ban any extraction of water from the dry regions and also minimized irrigation as well as mining practices during the dry seasons such as summer.

The second catchment is made up of Wimmera, Avoca, Loddon and Campaspe rivers which comprise the southwestern basins. In these parts, maximum rainfall is received during winter season thus adding up water into the basin(Bren 16).Nevertheless, the infertility of soils averages that run-offs ratios are exceptionally low. Hence, the changeability of overflow is very high, and most of the mortal lakes located in these basins dry up very frequently. Most of the overflows occur during the spring and winter seasons(Bren 23).To regulate the runoffs, large dams for regulations have been set up along the basin which holds the excess water during winter and spring seasons. These rivers dry up during the summer and autumn seasons.

AngasRiver which flows through Strathalbyn as well as Finniss River which streams west are part of the Murray-darling basin and forms the third catchment area. These are small catchment basins located in the south region of Australia. They lead to Lake Alexandrina, which is one of the lakes at the termination of the Murray stream(Bren 17).Angas canal, however, dries up in summer due to high levels of water extraction either by for mining or agricultural reasons. On the other hand, Finniss tributary has a permanent stream which formerly went into Lake Alexandria by has been stopped by a weir. The dam is one of the regulation programs which have been set up by the authorities to controls the water flows in and out of Murray-darling basin(Bren 21).The irrigations and mining activities have been banned during the periods when the waters are low in these rivers. River Finniss currently flows into Goolwa channel which is used for recreational activities such as boating for leisure.

The fourth catchment consists of Goulburn, Murrumbidgee and Murray basins. In this area, there is an exception of the Broken canal which bears a resemblance to southwestern basins hence not considered as part of the fourth catchment area(Bren 17).Since these catchment areas have headwaters in an alpine country which has moderately young peaty soils, the overflow ratios are much higher than in other regions of the basin. These canals never stop to flow, and the smallest yearly flow is naturally about 30 percent of the long-term average and the highest been three times of this mean(Bren 24). Mostly, the flow mounts very strongly with the spring snow soften and troughs in middle of the autumn season. The authority makes major efforts to ensure that the water is never lost for instance through the construction of dams along the basin which helps to catch the overflow. Irrigation and mining activities are highly encouraged during the times when the water level is high(Bren 19).Due to the high degree of regulation, the water run-off in the basin is relatively low as compared to the other main river canals. The reason why Murray-darling basin is regulated is that it has a long history of droughts and floods which the country wants to avoid in the now and future.

The Australia’s economic and social development owes much to the Murray-Darling basin hence the need to conserve it. For a long period, the basin’s waters and lands have delivered natural resources for the local individuals, for whom these possessions have always help great spiritual importance. Hence, the well-being of the basin’s environmental resources is of big impact to its original people. About 2.1 million individuals living around the basin were directly dependent on the resource by 2006 while other 1.3 million people are residing outside the water catchment also partly or fully reliant on this supply(Pearson 79). For instance, River Murray waters are provided to many societies located both outsides and inside the basin. Most cities and other big towns draw water directly, but currently, the pipeline system is transporting the waters to big distances. The pipeline services are regulated by a water body which is a division of the Murray-Darling basin authority(Pearson 76).The authority collects huge revenue from clients who consume the water and later that money is used to develop and control the basin. Examples of programs which have been initiated are the construction of dams which are significant in times of run-offs since they are used to catch the excess water.

Northern Mallee pipeline project which is located in Victoria is used to provide water from the basin to societies from Swan hill to Ouyen. The project was started in 1992, and most people in the region have relied on it for water supply(Pearson 82).The authorities of the basin also initiated the Wimmera Mallee pipeline scheme which is used to provide water to Berriwillock-Culgoa area from Murray-darling basin. Recently, the basin authorities have also started construction of other major water services projects which are aimed at improving the basin and supplying water to the people around it. Goldfields Superpipe whose construction started in 2007 has been used to link Ballarat and Bendigo to the Goulburn river scheme(Pearson 81). The scheme is also referred to as a Victorian section of environment and sustainability implying that it has an objective of improving the surroundings of Murray-darling basin. The Sugarloaf pipeline whose construction was accomplished in 2010 links Melbourne’s Goulburn canal whose aim is also to preserve the environment around the basin.

The south region of Australia has depended on the Murray channel for Adelaide and regional water supply. The building of Morgan-Port Augusta-Whyalla water system was accomplished in 1944(Pearson 82).Later, extensions were made from the original scheme of Port Augusta to Woomera with tributaries serving Jamestown, Iron Knob, and Peterborough among other centers and agricultural regions. The catchment consists of approximately 40 percent of all the nation’s farms which produces sheep, dairy products, cotton, wool, wheat, rice, wine, oilseeds, vegetables, and fruits. The agricultural products also provide raw materials to the manufacturing industries within the basin as well as other many processing organizations which are located outside the catchment. Presently, forestry, farming as well as pastoral activities cover almost 80 % of the region in the basin while 40% of the overall value of the nation’s agricultural production is generated from the inland fisheries(Pearson 64).The basin is also able to make about 3 % of the country’s electricity and around 33% of its hydroelectricity. The nation’s power firms have linked up with the authorities of the basin to set up electric businesses which produce power for the catchment itself as well as the country at large.

Ever since federation of Australia, successive administrations have put a lot of efforts to use water from the basin for agricultural purposes to motivate economic and social development within the catchment. There has been a massive investment in water catchment and transportation infrastructure by both federal and state’s administrations as well as private financing for an extended period. Due to this, agriculture is the main water consumer in the basin which accounts for about 83% of the total waters(Pearson 52). The use of water for agriculture has however been conflicted with preservation of the natural ecosystems where some bodies argue that the resources are used in the wrong way. Nevertheless, no individual or body has stopped the authorities of the basin to use the water for agricultural reasons since the country is dependent on this project for food and other raw materials(Bren 26).

Effects of the Regulations

Murray-Darling pooladministration is needed by the water law 2007, section 41 to establish a strategy by the requirements of the regulations and to give the plan to the ministry for approval. The basin authority has provided the strategies over a couple of years where most of those plans have provided an integrated and strategic outline which ensures that the water resources in the catchment are used in a sustainable manner(Bren 23).Courtesy of the plans from the authority, Australian administrations have invested numerous resources in the storage and delivery in the catchment. Most of the agricultural produce have been extracted from the basin lands which have in turn improved the economy of the country. An economy is unstable if it is unable to produce its food hence Australia can be regarded as stable due to adequate foods supply from the catchment’s lands(Bren 19).The mining activities, as well as electricity extraction from the basin, has polluted the waters thus causing degradation of the resources in and out of the pool. The pollution has also affected the marine life in the basin islands thus reducing the number of animals in the waters.

The variations in quality and quantity of the basin’s waters resources have both economic and social impacts. The over the allocation of water resultant from droughts has led to the lower dependability of water allocations where many irrigation schemes supported by the basin receive little or no water in some periods(Bren 20).For instance, during the millennium famine, cities and towns experienced severe water limitations. The variation in basin river schemes has also eroded its capacity to meet the requirements of original inhabitants(Pearson 64).Such impacts which have come as a result of regulation of the basin are negative to the authority and the people at large.

The basin authority plan has also extended to other objectives which are both long-term and short-term. The authority has been determined to give impact to relevant global covenants such as convention on biological assortment as well as Ramsar convention(Bren 25).These covenants are significant to the management and use of the basin water possessions. Another strategy made by the basin authority is to ensure that there is a significant volume of water to be used in several applications such as irrigation and electricity production. The management of this water catchment area has accomplished this role through the construction of dams along the basin which are used to catch the run-offs. The administration has further been committed to defining environmental, salinity as well as water quality objectives which they have achieved(Pearson 68).The authority is also committed to improving water security for all applications of the basin possessions. Establishment of various plans in compliance with the water act has seen the authority of Murray-Darling river basin accomplish its regulation goals.


Murray-Darling river basin is a water catchment area which is fed by two rivers, Murray and Darling canals. It is situated in the center of southeastern Australia, and it is regulated by an authority. The authority of the basin derives its regulation powers from the water act 2007, section 4 which requires it to make an annual plan on how to improve the basin. Various regulation projects have been set up by the administration of the basin which has seen improvement of the environment around the basin as well as the provision of resources such as water to the people.

Works Cited

Association., Murray Darling. “Basin bulletin: newsletter of the Murray Darling Association Inc. for conservation and sustainable development.” (2012): Murray Daring Association, 234-248.

Bren, L J. Forest hydrology and catchment management: an Australian perspective. Dordrecht: Springer, 2014.

Huitema, Dave and Sander V Meijerink. The politics of river basin organizations: coalitions, institutional design choices and consequences. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2014.

Pearson, Jane. Murray Darling river system. Port Melbourne: Echidna Books, 2012.

Water, Western Australia. Department of. Quickup River Dam Catchment Area drinking water source protection plan: Denmark town water supply. Perth, W.A: Dept. of Water, 2012.

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