The Murray Darling Basin
Research project by Michelle Derrick
The Murray Darling Basin
The Murray Darling Basin is Australia’s largest river system, and one of the biggest basins in the world. It covers over 1 million square kilometres of land the south eastern Australia. It collects the water draining west of the Great Dividing Range. The basin consists of rivers, river channels, wetlands, floodplains, lakes and eventually an estuary environment where fresh water meets salty sea water. There may even be a swamp or two.
The Murray Darling Basin passes through 5 states, these states are Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia and 1 territory, and it is Australia Capital Territory. The Murray Darling Basin flows out to sea at Goolwa in South Australia. Animals and plants live in the basin. Animals include many fish, birds, marsupials, reptiles, amphibians and insects live in the basin. Plants like aquatic meaning water and terrestrial meaning land plants live in the basin. One type of fish, the European carp is endangering the life of many other fish.
There are over 2 million people that live in the basin, meaning there is a wide range of communities in the basin. There have been aboriginal communities living in the basin for a long time (centuries). The importance of the basin is that it gives water to the communities in and around these states and territory; it is home to hundreds of different animals and plant species. It also gives an open and welcoming learning space for students that go to school on river sides that live in the basin. It provides for the surrounding communities that live in or near the basin, fresh, clean water to use. However everyone must remember that we have to take care and not use too much.
The basin also provides animals with food and water. It also provides them with a safe and natural environment to live.
The Water Cycle
The Murray Darling Basin relies on the water cycle because without it there would be no Murray Darling Basin. The Water Cycle is a continuous movement of water on the earth, that’s not in a bottle but in rivers, lakes and oceans. The water cycle moves water through its three different stages- liquid, gas or solid. A liquid is the water you drink from the bottle or can get from a tap, a gas is something that is an element lighter than oxygen/ light enough to make it float into the sky and a solid is like ice or snow. Snow is very rare in Australia, usually only occurring rarely.
The first stage of the water cycle is evaporation, where water in the ocean or lakes heats up and becomes a gas, rising into the atmosphere. After evaporation, the water condenses to form clouds, this is the second stage know as condensation, which then returns the water to a liquid state or may also form as a solid as hail or snow to the ground. When water falls as rain, hail or snow it is known as precipitation. When rain falls and runs over soil into rivers, lakes, wetlands, it is known as surface water. When water goes deep into the ground it is known as ground water and helps trees or plants to stay alive. When the water evaporates from the collection areas, it means the water cycle has begun again.
The water cycle is very important to the Murray Darling Basin because without the water cycle the rivers wouldn’t run/ flow anymore and would dry up. This would mean that there would be droughts and communities would be without water, animals and plants would die or the animals would leave because their habitats would be suffering. It would soon be abandoned if there was no more water to sustain life or support communities that live in the basin.
Salinity means something containing salt for example the ocean is saline. The term salinity refers to the level of salt in a solution and is used to describe the level of salt in the water and the land. It is high in many areas throughout the Murray Darling Basin and a major environmental problem. It’s causing widespread problems in urban areas and on farms. Farms are unable to produce crops because of the high water table, which means that the salt is close to the surface. Australia has a really big problem with salinity because parts of Australia have sunk and when rain falls, the salt in the clouds comes down with the rain. The salt can’t get back to the ocean because the land has sunk so much the salt just sits in the ground. When famers plant crops or vegetation is planted, the ground is irrigated which causes the water table to rise, letting the salt to come up to the surface causing big problems for the Murray Darling Basin.
Jobs are affected because if people can’t farm crops to feed people because the salt has risen to the surface, everyone would suffer because farmers, pickers would have no work and people who work in supermarkets would be affected because the supermarket would need as many people working there.
Salinity affects houses by eating away at the bricks and making them collapse. People’s lives are affected because houses that are meant to stay up for 20years could only stay up for 2years. People would have to move or rebuild. Farmers are affected because they can’t farm on that area. Businesses would crumble because they wouldn’t be able to pay to fix the building, pay mortgage of the building if they don’t get enough people coming and buying something in the business. The government, farmers and businesses should be involved in improving the salinity problem. The government could pay people to plant trees, grasses or shrubs in areas of high salinity.
Farmers should be careful how much water they put over the land when irrigating crops. Business owners should plant trees around their businesses to ensure that there is less need to water the grass/ garden. Everyone suffers from salinity because buildings are ruined by a couple of years, crops won’t grow and people will go without food in areas that’s why everyone has to help with the salinity problem.
We can plant native trees in backyards, around buildings these can all help keep the water table down but everyone needs to do their part to keep it down. The government needs to show how much the environment can help us and how much we need to do to keep it in good condition.
Some effective strategies that could help reduce the effects of salinity could include: keeping the water table from rising which would reduce the salinity problem. We could do this by planting more native deep rooted trees and plants. We can’t stop salt coming from the ocean but we can slow it down from destroying the ground from beneath us. We can keep native vegetation and not rip it up for farming or buildings.
Ways to reduce salinity in urban areas, could include the local councils considering suitable strategies. Some of these could be: clearing for new residential development, drainage design and building techniques can all have implications for salinity. Changing the way we manage the land and/or changing the pastures and crops we plant. Also we could revegetate the land, strategies like these could also benefit farmers.