Few know the mouth of the Murray-Darling system like Richard Owen. The conservationist and Landcare co-ordinator has lived on Hindmarsh Island for 35 years – bearing witness to the river estuary's rapid decline. Today, he stands atop sand dunes, looking out at the two diesel powered mechanical dredges working around the clock to keep the mouth from closing.
Like many, Keith Parkes' relationship with the River Murray is a love story. It was love that inspired him to move his family from Adelaide to Goolwa 22 years ago, to live and work along the waterway. He built a thriving boating business, while his wife and daughters enjoyed all the things that came with being by the river. But by 2008, that had all changed.
Steve Asimopoulos felt he had won the lottery when the Government paid him to walk off his Barmera fruit block to free up water for environmental flows during the drought. The cash payout brought relief from the crippling debts he had incurred modernising his wine grape block in the 1990s. He had increased plantings, switched to drip irrigation and upgraded his machinery to tap into the prosperity of the wine grape boom in the Riverland, an irrigated fruit bowl on the River Murray in South…
Throughout the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan irrigation farmers and environmentalists have often been seen as enemies battling over the system's water resources. Ecologist Matt Herring said what is happening in the Riverina shows that water can be managed not just for the environment or for agriculture, but for both, at the same time.
Geoff Stevens has been fishing in Lake Mulwala and down the Murray for the last 40 years. He has seen the rise and fall of water quality - and the dramatic increase of an introduced bottom-feeding pest: carp. "The biggest problem here at the moment for the fishermen is the amount of carp," he said. Carp in large numbers negatively affect the health of the river by stirring up sediments during feeding, reducing water quality.
Ken Tyson uses water Murrumbidgee River at Wagga to run two thriving businesses. His turf farm supplies clients as far away as Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra and his quarry supplies raw material for infrastructure across the region.
David Mott says the lush green grass on Berry Jerry Station is an example of how the Murrumbidgee River can be successfully harnessed. The Mott family has owned the 2,161 hectare riverside property for 27 years and in that time he has seen the best and the worst from nature. But even in severe droughts the river helped them survive. "Like everywhere else there was a lack of feed, but the one thing we had no problem with is water," he said. "We have very good underground water here as well as
There is no shortage of passion or opinion on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in Griffith. Almost five years ago to the day, irrigators burned copies of the proposed Murray-Darling Basin Plan, furious at the lack of consideration given to the community impacts of basin reform. For many, the fury remains. "There's a saying in our community - water in our community is like gold, liquid gold," Griffith Mayor John Dal Broi said.
While the water buybacks and environmental flows have divided farmers and environmentalists, there is significant evidence that the policy is helping to restore wildlife and vegetation in the Murray-Darling Basin. Professor Richard Kingsford, director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of New South Wales, said the biological indicators were positive for the Lachlan and Macquarie rivers. "We know that the environmental flows provided last year and this year are having an…