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The Murray–Darling Basin is of significant environmental, cultural and economic value to Australia.

  • It’s home to 16 internationally significant wetlands, 35 endangered species and 120 different species of waterbirds.
  • More than 2.3 million people live in the Basin, including people from more than 40 different First Nations.
  • The Basin attracts visitors from around the world, with tourism earning around $11 billion each year.
  • Around 40% of Australia’s agricultural produce comes from the Basin, including 100% of our rice, 74% of our grapes and 30% of our dairy.

What is the Murray–Darling Basin?

The Murray–Darling Basin is a large area of south-eastern Australia where water flows through a system of interconnected rivers and lakes. The 2 main rivers are the River Murray and the Darling River. The Darling begins in Southern Queensland where the Culgoa and Barwon rivers meet. It flows into the Murray at the border of New South Wales and Victoria, and the Murray eventually reaches the sea just to the south-east of Adelaide.

The Basin includes most of New South Wales, some of southern Queensland, the east of South Australia, northern Victoria and all of the Australian Capital Territory.

What you need to know

The rivers in the Basin are under pressure

The amount of water used from the rivers of the Basin has increased substantially over time. It is also used in more ways than it used to be. Along with droughts this increased usage has led to some rivers and wetlands being degraded. It has also affected animal populations as land use changes and because the degradation of wetlands interrupts the breeding cycles of fish and birds, decreasing their overall populations. This affects recreation, tourism and communities that rely on these wetlands.

A total of 3.6 million people (including the entire population of Adelaide which is not in the Basin) rely on water from the Basin rivers for many uses, including drinking, washing, farming and irrigation.

To benefit humans and wildlife, water quality and water availability must be carefully managed to ensure the Basin stays healthy, now and in the future.

The Murray–Darling Basin Plan aims to improve the health of the Basin

The Murray–Darling Basin Plan was created to improve the health of the Basin, while continuing to support farming and other industries for the benefit of the Australian community. This has to be done in a sustainable way that can protect the health of the river for future generations.

The Basin Plan sets the amount of water that can be taken from the Basin each year, while leaving enough for rivers, lakes and wetlands and the plants and animals that depend on them.

Working to improve the health of the Basin is not just good for the environment, but will have flow-on benefits for Basin communities, farmers and irrigators, now and in the future.

Explore the Basin and its importance