The Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation in Australia urged landholders along the lower River Murray to secure alternative sources of drinking water, as acidic downstream water is “unfit” for human consumption, The Advertiser reported Tuesday.
Farmers were warned to avoid contact with the water in the area and to restrict their livestock from accessing the river, whose water was declared “unfit to drink” for the first time in history.
The acid –- which came from the Finniss River and Currency Creek in South Australia — formed when acid sulphate soils were exposed to air due to low water levels, according to Karlene Maywald, SA Minister for the River Murray and Water Security. The water can cause irritation, especially to sensitive tissue like the eyes.
South Australia -– which covers some of the most arid parts of the continent –- also receives the lower reaches of the Murray. According to Peter Gell, palaeoecologist at the University in Ballarat in Australia, prolonged droughts and reduced water levels have caused acidification in several wetlands along the downstream Murray-Darling Basin.
“Climate change scenarios place southeast Australia as a climate hotspot, likely to have the second greatest loss of wet season rainfall (the Sahara first),” he told Circle of Blue.
In addition to acidification, stream salinity, sedimentation and turbidity will continue to plague the degrading basin. “We must be prepared for this system to be degraded for a long time and establish plans to gradually repair it through this century,” Gell said.
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Source: Adelaide Now
, a Bulgaria native, is a Chicago-based reporter for Circle of Blue. She co-writes The Stream, a daily digest of international water news trends.
Interests: Europe, China, Environmental Policy, International Security.