Murray Darling River water crisis update

We had a few drops of rain here last night, but by mid-morning the ground looked as dry as ever. I’m seeing paddocks close by to us starting to powder and it certainly doesn’t look anything like April last year. The land has the color of a very dry mid-summer and we’re in the middle of autumn. Any decent moisture that was left in the soil is now gone and many well established native trees are showing signs of stress or dying.

The story regarding the scale of the Murray-Darling River water crisis is continuing to unfold.

– Inflows into the Murray Darling since June last year have been 60% lower than previous driest period on record.

– Some smaller towns may need water trucked in and that water may be of low quality

– It has been recommended that South Australia go ahead with the new weir and 8 more wetlands may need to be drained

– Scientist says there is only 40 days of supply left in Adelaide’s water reservoirs


I caught a TV interview with our illustrious Treasurer, Peter Costello, the other night. He stated that it was quite possible that fruit and vegetables could hit prices as high as bananas were after the major cyclone in Queensland when that particular fruit reached AU$19 a kilo. One of the surprising aspects of the interview was the up front nature of his answers – no politico-speak, just “here’s the situation; learn to live with it”.

Australians currently spend about 15% of their income on food. If the current rainfall situation continues much longer, that’s tipped to rise to 30%. Once irrigation water to farmers in the Murray Darling basin is cut off; which may occur within 8 weeks, their crops will rapidly die. Even if it does rain shortly afterwards, it will be too late for some types of crops that will take years to re-establish.

It’s rather odd the Government has suddenly come out with a “sky is falling” approach after being in relative denial for so long. It may be that the problem is way too huge to cover up any further or it might be a part of a ploy to wrest control of the Murray-Darling from the states without further delay.. I suspect it’s a mixture of both.

I’m not sure if the gravity of these latest revelations have really hit home with the average Australian suburbanite. Farmers certainly understand it and I guess the rest of the nation will too at the supermarket checkout in the months ahead.

Professor Don Bursill, a former chief scientist for SA Water says when the Murray-Darling Basin Commission was set-up in the 1980s, all governments since that time were well aware that an unsustainable volume of water was being drawn from the Murray-Darling river system.

The other very surprising aspect of all this is that in many areas, water restriction levels are still set rather low. Here in Adelaide, we’re only on Level 3 of a scale that goes up to 5; and why we *still* aren’t on Level 5 restrictions is beyond me.

Previous related posts:

Murray river level critical
Rivers most at risk
Draining Murray river wetlands