River Murray

The River Murray is the nation’s most iconic river and supports estuarine, floodplain and wetland environments of national and international significance.  Across the Murray-Darling Basin, there are about 30,000 wetlands with sixteen listed under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (the Ramsar Convention).

The basin supports significant agriculture, tourism and other productive industries and is home to more than two million people.

The Murray-Darling system is one of the largest in the world but it carries by far the smallest volume of water of any major river system in the world. It is therefore particularly vulnerable to any degree of change whether by natural causes or consumptive use.

We need to manage the river carefully to ensure it is able to continue to support healthy environments and productive and resilient industries and communities into the future.

Cross-border coordination and the Basin Plan

The River Murray runs across three states, making it tricky to manage. Effective management requires cooperation between South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.

That’s why the Murray-Darling Basin Authority has prepared the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The Basin Plan: 

  • allows for the integrated and sustainable management of the water resources in the basin
  • focuses on managing the basin river systems as one
  • aims to ensure that enough water is allocated to the environment.

See our section on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in South Australia for more information.

Your rights and responsibilities

Using the River Murray comes with obligations.

If you use River Murray water, please familiarise yourself with the SA Murray-Darling Basin Regional NRM Plan and the River Murray Water Allocation Plan, both of which provide the context for why and how the river and its water are managed.

Next, find out if you need to apply for a water licence or permit:

  • Do you wish to take water from the river or nearby surroundings? You may need to apply for a water licence or permit.
  • Are you planning to build a structure or carry out an activity that may affect a water resource? You might be planning what we call a water affecting activity and may need to apply for a permit.

For those intending to create a development along the river, the River Murray Act 2003 requires that applications and planning documents are referred by the local planning authority to the Minister for Water and the River Murray. Through the one-stop-shop process, the minister may seek comment from a range of experts, and then give direction or advice to the relevant authority to ensure development activities are undertaken in a way that minimises harm to the river.