The Murray Darling Basin certainly has prompted some interesting discussions of late and ironically not at a time when the country is ravaged by drought but when the entire system is flush with water, feed and bird life. Hopefully the good seasons will prevail for many years whilst the much needed upgrade of irrigation infrastructure is put in place ensuring the river towns and communities thrive and the Eco system receives the flows required to sustain them.
Remember this, Western NSW
Not so long ago the picture of our country side as I traveled around Australia looked rather bleak, so much so in fact it was hard to imagine that that our rivers would ever be in flood and the wind swept plains could ever sustain plant growth ever again.
The Darling River at Tilpa
Seeing the Darling river completely dry is a shocking sight, no water means no life and to try and visualize river boats pulling barges loaded with wool hundreds of miles along this river was almost impossible. At the time this photo was taken water was being held upstream of the weir at Bourke for stock and domestic use. The Paroo and Warrego rivers are the major feeders to the Darling below Bourke and they had not run for many years so from this point on was disaster for the river. However, these testing times for our basin were soon to reverse. Wide spread rains soon had the rivers flowing and follow up rains caused floods levels that haven't been experienced since the 1900's. The drought ravaged plains soon became a sea of green herbage as far as the eye could see.
At last the Murray would finally run again filling all those wetlands along the way and flush the salt ladened water out through the lakes and finally into the southern ocean.
The Menindee Lakes.
The Darling River has to feed the Menindee Lakes before reaching the Murray. The lakes cover an area of 273000 square K's and when full are 7 meters deep and can hold 1,700,000 mgl of water. There is some irrigation in the area and Broken Hill also pipes water from there for domestic use.
The Murray River
Finally all the water from this system reaches the Murray at Wentworth, from there on the SA River-lands areas source water for their extensive but efficient irrigation projects all the way down to Lake Alexandrina.
Lake Alexandrina at sunset
This is a massive lake and accounts for huge evaporation losses as do the Menindee lakes. The Coorong and Lake Alexandrina cover an area of 143,000 ha and the Coorong is 100 kilometers in length with one long sand dune separating the fresh water from the southern ocean. During 1930 barrages were built across the Murray mouth limiting the amount of sea water to enter Lake Alexandrina so changing it to a fresh water lake fed from waters from the Murray.
The Coorong, full again
Evaporation losses from the lake are over one million mega-liters per year, an extra man made burden the basin now has to support. I must say it's a very interesting journey through the Murray Darling Basin from the extreme north catchment country down along the flood plains and rivers, through extensive irrigation areas growing cotton, rice, cereals, citrus and special varieties of wine grapes then the massive lake system and finally the southern ocean. Hopefully the final plan for the Basin is a win for all concerned.
Where the Murray River ends.Until next time.
Until next time. Steve and Sass.