The Murray Darling Basin

The Murray Darling Basin

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The Basin


Covering 1,062,025 km2 (13.8% of total mainland Australia) the largest, most complex and important river system in Australia. Housing many unique fauna and flora (some to it specifically and only found there) it is the backbone that holds up Australia’s largest agricultural sector and region; where one third total of all Australia’s food supply and total gross value of agricultural production come from. Producing $22 billion worth of food and fibre and $8 billion spent on tourism it is home to 40% of all of Australia’s farms that includes production of wool, cotton, dairy produce, wine, fruit and vegetable produce, and rice for local and overseas markets.


Rivers and Water


With such a large and complex natural resource at our disposal it is integral that a system is continually developed that is capable of sustainable economic growth, retaining its health, accommodating to business needs, and keep it liveable for its 2.6 million residents that call it home. It also holds major cultural and natural significance; water is its most valuable gift and it only comes from a small fraction of its total (within the southern and eastern edge). One of its unique features is that the water is able to slowly flow through as the inland plains and rivers have very low gradients.

Made up of three of the longest rivers in Australia:

  • The Darling River
  • The Murray River
  • The Murrambidgee River

There are many sections of the rivers and they depends on the other - if one is impacted in some way then the others are as well.




With the Basin covering such a vast amount of space it is inevitable that understanding the various climates and temperature conditions that it passes through plays a major role in the conservation, usage, and future of the Basin. Covering the subtropical in the Far North, the cool humid eastern uplands, the high alpine of the Snowy Mountains, the temperate South East, and the hot, arid Western Plains the ‘Food Basket’ is spread across four states - Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, and South Australia. Located beside it are many large and major cities including Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, and Shepparton.


Fauna and Flora


It is constantly being analyzed by scientists and the like for information on water quality, vegetation, and its fauna and flora. 7% of the Basin is made up of national parks and other reserves which help protect the wildlife and environment with over 30,000 wetlands; some are listed and recognized internationally as they are important for overseas and Australian birds migrating. Floodplains and forests provide homes to rich and abundant habitats for ecosystems of rare flora and fauna including the Pelican, Murray Cod, Azure Kingfisher, and the Corroboree Frog.


Produce and Agricultural Produce


While its mainstay is agricultural produce the resulting raw materials is also how it creates manufacturing activity and provides for processing companies and other operations. Sheep and Cattle businesses and enterprises make up the majority of ventures, particularly within the southern catchments and Basin. Dairy production within the Murray Catchment is only found in the north-east and north-central Victoria and Southern New South Wales. Other livestock include pigs, poultry, horses, bees, ostriches, and bees.


Food Crops


Food crops consist of barley, cereal rye, buckwheat, and wheat. 8.5% of the Basin are occupied by cereal crops; 47% of all Australia’s cereal farms are located within it and makes up 25% of gross agricultural production value. Horticultural crops include citrus, stone and pome fruits, grapes, and vegetables. Of significance and importance are the 2,000 rice farming enterprises that produce 1.6 million tonnes, covering 176,000 hectares, valued at $348.9 million in 2001.


What about Drought?


Since 1995 drought conditions have affected every facet of the Basin and will continue to deteriorate the condition and livelihood of those involved with it in any way. The balance of sustainability and profitability a major concern affected by overseas markets, resource constraints and land management.


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