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There will never be any more freshwater on Earth than there is now.

No new water is being made and water cant escape from the Earth. The water we use is recycled over and over again. The water cycle is the simplest natural cycle on Earth. Solar energy evaporates water from the ocean, lakes and rivers. Millions of litres of water rise into the atmosphere as an invisible gas - water vapour. This process is called evaporation. As the water vapour is pushed over the land by winds and rises over mountains, the water vapour cools and turns back into tiny water droplets, forming clouds. The droplets joining together is termed condensation. These droplets fall to earth as rain (precipitation). The rain runs into streams and rivers, which eventually flow into lakes or the sea and the cycle begins all over again.


is a dry country with very limited water resources. Avg. rainfall of 469 millimeters, Australia is the driest habitable continent on Earth- only Antarctica is drier 70% of Australia is classified as arid with little or no precipitation. Highly variable climate- rain can fall in deluges or not at all 10 years- 3yrs of good rainfall, 4yrs of average rainfall and 3yrs of poor rainfall


distribution is uneven Some parts of Australia receive large amounts of rain, while other areas receive very little rain Rainfall is seasonal Tully- annual rainfall of 4000 millimetres Lake Eyre- average annual rainfall 100 millimetres


in Australia is so high and the topography is so flat, that water flows out from the land to the sea in only just over half of the continent- the rest flows inwards towards the middle.


has the smallest amount of run offwater entering streams, rivers and dams- of any country on Earth. It is this small amount of run-off that makes the country so dry. This means little usable water ends up in rivers. Only about 48 millimeters of Australias average rainfall runs off as surface water (i.e. along the surface). This is the same amount as New Zealand, even though Australia is 28 times larger in area.

80% of the water used by Australians is obtained from surface water and 20% from ground water sources. Australians are amongst the worlds biggest consumers of water. We use about 350 liters per person per day. Only about 2 liters of the 350 liters used is actually drunk Half the amount is used on the garden and the rest is used in the toilet, bathroom, laundry and kitchen. With population increases, the demand for water will continue to rise. Most urban areas in Australia already rely on dams for their water supply.

drainage basin is an area of land where surface water from rain and melting snow or ice converges to a single point, usually the exit of the basin, where the waters join another waterbody, such as a river, lake, reservoir, estuary, wetland, sea, or ocean of the largest drainage basins in Australia are the MurrayDarling Basin and the Lake Eyre Basin, which each cover an area of over 1 million square kilometers.


A catchment is an area where water is collected by the natural landscape. In a catchment, all rain and run-off water eventually flows to a creek, river, lake or ocean, or into the groundwater system. Natural and human systems such as rivers, bushland, farms, dams, homes, plants, animals and people can coexist in a catchment.

Healthy catchments provide: a source of clean drinking water unspoilt natural areas for recreation habitat for plants and animals healthy vegetation and waterways reliable and clean water for stock and irrigation, and opportunities for sustainable agriculture and industry.

Our daily activities affect the health of our catchments. The first step to protect our catchments is to better understand our impact on them.

Darling 2,740 km (if include to Adelaide and tributaries, otherwise 1,390 km) Murray 2,530 km

Australias Murray-Darling Basin

1.06 million sq. km

15% land mass 6.1% of Australias total run off major river system 2 million people
Meninde Lakes Menindee












Lake Vi ctoria Mildura



Swan Hill


Sydney Canberra

Murray Bridge

2 capital cities

200 km


Video Complete the questions as we watch the video

The Murray-Darling Basin has been termed Australia 's agricultural heartland, its food basket'. It is Australia's most important agricultural region, accounting for just over 34 per cent of the nation's agricultural production in 2000/2001. The MDB dominates Australian irrigated agriculture. The area of irrigated agriculture in the Basin is 1.9 million hectares which is 75% of the Australian total in 2000/2001. Farms in the MDB cover an area of 88.6 million hectares, 19.4 per cent of the Australian total farm area of 455.7 million hectares. The map of the Basin below has been divided into different catchments. The size of the pie chart (circle graph) indicates the area of agricultural land in the catchment and the colours represent the type of agriculture.


the following; Activities 1- 6



Take Notes

Dams are massive barriers built across rivers and streams to confine and utilize the flow of water for human purposes such as irrigation and generation of hydroelectricity. This confinement of water creates lakes or reservoirs.
The first known dam was built in 2900 B.C. across the Nile River to protect the city of Memphis from flooding. Dam build was continued into the time of the Roman empire, after which dam construction was literally lost until the 1800s. Dams are a structure also seen in nature - beavers build dams to keep the water deep enough to cover the openings to their homes, protecting them from predators.

Reasons to build a dam:

generation of hydroelectricity irrigation. These are often diversion dams, which stop a rivers natural course so that water can be sent off to a different place. control flooding. These are called detention dams, which are constructed to either stop or slow the amount of water in a river.

According to Patrick McCully, campaigns director of the International Rivers Network, over 800,000 dams have been constructed worldwide for drinking water, flood control, hydropower, irrigation, navigation, and water storage. But since the 1950s, the peak of the big dam era, perceptions of dams and dam building have changed. Once symbols of development, dams today symbolize, as shown in this website, not progress but environmental and social devastation.


a barrier across a river designed to alter the flow characteristics. In most cases, weirs take the form of a barrier, smaller than most conventional dams, across a river that causes water to pool behind the structure (not unlike a dam) and allows water to flow over the top. Weirs are commonly used to alter the flow regime of the river, prevent flooding, measure discharge and help render a river navigable.


Average Annual Flow

(GL) (approx)

Amazon (Sth America) Yangtze (China)

5,518,800 1,014,700 567,700

Yenisey/ Selenga (Russia)

Ganga (India) Mississippi/Missouri Nile (Africa) Hwang Ho (China) Murray

405,100 88,500 51,100


The single most detrimental change to the aquatic environment has been brought about by regulation of the river. Dams and weirs have altered the volume of the rivers flow, the seasons in which it flows, and how often if floods. River levels have changes, as have water temperatures. Artificial structures such as locks and weirs from barriers which block the movement of fish along the river, reducing the success of breeding and feeding.


is the build-up of salt in soil and water. It occurs naturally but in many parts of Australia, human activities such as irrigation have accelerated the process. Farms, irrigation areas, wetlands, rivers, drinking water and infrastructure are all affected.


general, the more material that is suspended in water, the greater is the water's turbidity and the lower its clarity. Suspended material can be particles of clay, silt, sand, algae, plankton, micro-organisms and other substances.

rainfall and catchment runoff catchment soil erosion bed and bank erosion bed disturbance, e.g. by introduced fish species such as carp waste discharge stormwater excessive algal growth floodplain and wetland retention and deposition flow waterway type soil types salinity.

Water pollution from river regulation has brought about increased levels of turbidity from associated soil erosion. This increases the murkiness of the water and reduces the level of light for plant growth. This reduces the food source for herbivorous fish.

Moreover, the problem of bluegreen algae is of major concern. Fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides add to the nutrient levels in the water from surface runoff. These nutrients allow algae to proliferate. In 1991, the longest blue-green algae bloom in the world was recorded at the MDB, over a 1,000 km stretch. This reduces oxygen levels in the water, leading to the death of fish and reducing the light for other aquatic plants.

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