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About the River Murray

The River Murray

For Aboriginal South Australians creation stories recall the creation and formation of the River Murray. Aboriginal Nations along the River Murray have occupied and managed the region for thousands of generations and the river supported one of the most densely populated parts of Aboriginal Australia and a thriving economy. These Nations continue their connection to the river today.

South Australians live in the driest state in the driest inhabited continent in the world. The River Murray is the life-blood of the state, providing essential water for irrigation, industry, domestic and recreational use and our precious wetlands and floodplains.

In South Australia, in an average year, around 75 per cent of the water taken from the River Murray is used for primary production. This includes water for livestock, piggeries, dairies and wineries and for the irrigation of crops such as citrus, stone fruit, almonds, pasture, vegetables and other niche crops.

Other water uses include water supply for towns and metropolitan Adelaide, the environment and recreation.

The river is also a popular place to visit and enjoy the beautiful locations, unique plants and wildlife, quality food and wine and outdoor activities.

Over time, the health of the River Murray and other basin water resources has been significantly affected by river regulation, over-use of water resources and drought.

Much work is being done to help restore river health and support our river industries and communities, but there is still more to do.

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. This is particularly important during the current dry conditions.

The Murray-Darling Basin

The Murray-Darling Basin is located in the south-east of Australia. The basin covers 1,059,000 square kilometres and drains one-seventh of Australia's land area. It includes the Australian Capital Territory, and parts of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

The basin contains Australia's three longest rivers, the Darling (2,740 km), Murray (2,530 km) and Murrumbidgee (1,690 km) and incorporates a vast network of tributaries, creeks and watercourses, many of which only carry water during times of flood. The freshwater flows down the Murray-Darling system are seen by Aboriginal Nations as the lifeblood of their Country.

The basin supports a wide range of estuarine, floodplain and wetland environments. There are around 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. Outside the basin, a further 1.3 million people depend on its water resources, including Adelaide, the largest population base reliant on basin water resources.

South Australia works closely with all basin states and the Australian Government to jointly manage the Murray-Darling river system. To ensure the entire river system is managed sustainably into the future, the Basin Plan was developed and agreed to by all basin states.