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Busted! The truth behind the myths of the Murray Darling Basin

The Murray Darling Basin Plan is fraught with mismanagement, lies and misinformation. With so much conflicting information circulating about our river systems it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. That's why we've gone and busted some of the harmful myths that are out there.

The truth behind keeping our river alive is simpler than you think. Healthy rivers need water, we need truth and integrity in the Murray Darling Basin.


Myth 1:

There is confusion about how controlled floods help fish populations breed.

Controlled flooding is when water is pumped onto the floodplain to the mimic the natural flows of an unregulated river. That is a river without locks, weirs or large water storages.

Scientific research shows that controlled flooding events help fish to spawn.   

The truth is that fish's biological rhythms are effected by a number of factors including the depth, speed, turbulence and temperature of water flows. With so much extraction from our rivers environmental flows are necessary to mimic the natural flooding events of a free flowing river.

Flooding events are linked to higher breeding levels. Floods allow young fish to move onto the floodplain to access nutrients and habitat.




Myth 2:

There is serious concern for the well being of the iconic river red gum trees in the Barmah-Millewa National Park, on Yorta Yorta Country.

Since colonisation the landscape has been degraded due to a number of factors, including changes to size and frequency of flooding. Its worth noting this country has been maintained for 60,000+ years by Traditional Owners. 

Nowadays the river is managed in a way that prioritises irrigation over the needs of the environment. High irrigation demand in summer sometimes results in accidental flooding at the wrong time of year causing damage to river red gums.

The truth is river red gums need occasional flooding to survive and thrive.




Myth 3

Some people think that river water is being wasted if it flows all the way to sea.

The truth is that the Murray-Darling needs water all the way through the river system to its outlet into the Southern Ocean. Before colonisation, the Murray Mouth estuary had a healthy balance of fresh and saline water. Over-extraction and river regulation have changed this balance, threatening the health of the ecosystems that rely on it.


Myth 4

Black water events have followed natural and environmental flooding events in the past. But the truth is the flooding is not to blame. Organic matter like leaf litter and animal manure release tannins that darken the river water and chew up all the available oxygen.

Regular flooding allows the slow release of tannins and prevents the overload of nutrients and organic matter that causes black water events. 


Myth 5

The Menindee Lakes are a system of 4 main lakes, Lake Wetherell, Pamamaroo, Menindee and Cawndilla that are supplied by the Darling River. Water would flow very slowly through this system. Naturally, major floods upstream would fill the top lake which would empty slowly into the next lake and fill the system. 

It was possible for one lake to be empty as another lake filled, but it is very unusual to see all the lakes dry. This is the result of water theft and over consumption of the precious water in the river.




Graphics and research by Jack McPherson

Text by Zeb Peake

Edited by Megan Williams

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