Steady Rains Deliver Needed Drink to Australia’s Murray-Darling

Southeastern Australia springs back to life after 10 years of thirst.

Irrigators along the River Murray in South Australia will get a big increase in water allocations, after heavy rains in recent months have partially refilled the depleted water stocks in the Murray-Darling River Basin, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.


Photo © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue

Water allocations had been lifted from 41 to 63 percent because of increased inflows and storage across the basin, according to South Australia’s River Murray Minister Paul Caica. This time last year farmers were receiving merely 16 percent of their usual entitlements.

The basin’s two major rivers, the Murray and the Darling, run across four Australian states—Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

“The forecast minimum basin inflow for September 2010 has increased to 2150 gigaliters, which is not only well above the long-term average for September of about 1600gl, but is also forecast to increase further,” Caica added.

The state is now heading into summer with reservoirs close to capacity.

Last month, Caica also announced that the water restrictions across the state would be lifted in December.

“With reservoirs in the Adelaide Hills now at over 80 percent, and the water for crucial human needs for the next two financial years almost secured, we are now in a position to lift restrictions,” he said.

Meanwhile, neighboring Victoria declared the end of the epic decade-long drought that had gripped the northern part of the state, as pouring rains in Victoria’s capital Melbourne last week triggered the worst floods in the area in more than 15 years.

“Clearly the drought is behind us, I think you can safely say, in the north of the state when the entire north is pretty much inundated,” Police and Emergency Services Minister Bob Cameron said.

The steady rains over the last few months are a boon for the Murray-Darling River Basin, which suffered record low water inflows last year.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority, the agency that monitors the basin, announced earlier this month that it in October it is releasing a guide to a proposed strategic Basin Plan for the integrated and sustainable management of the water resources in the Murray-Darling. The program, expected to commence in 2011, will set limits on the amount of water that can be withdrawn from basin, provide strategies for risk management, ensure standards for water quality and create rules for trading with water rights across the region.

Sources: The Sydney Morning Herald, Murray-Darling Basin Authority

Read more about Australia’s decade-long drought on Circle of Blue.

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