Water mismanagement triggered ecological disaster in Australian rivers, panel concludes

Even before a recent massive fish die-off put Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin in the headlines worldwide, scientists had been warning that mismanagement of the region’s scarce water was setting the stage for an environmental disaster.They were right, a report released today by a special government commission concludes. The yearlong inquiry found that too much water is being taken out of the river network for irrigation and household use.

The Murray-Darling system comprises more than 100 named waterways that drain 1 million square kilometers in the country’s arid southeast. Heavy irrigation has left the lower reaches of the rivers running at about a third of historical levels and sometimes completely dry. Occasionally, as over the past 6 weeks, the flow is too low to flush nutrients from agricultural runoff through the system, leading to algal blooms and subsequent fish kills.

“If just half of these recommendations could be followed, a much better future for the basin is likely to ensue,” says Caroline Sullivan, an environmental economist at Southern Cross University in Lismore, Australia.

Water mismanagement triggered ecological disaster in Australian rivers, panel concludes

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