Problems/Pollution


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Problems of the Murray-Darling River System have become a concern for people of Australia who depend on the riverís resources. They use the riverís resources so much, however, that they have exploited the riverís natural resources and they are degrading the environment.

The land has been over-cultivated and the plant life has been overgrazed. Much of the land has been cleared of its native vegetation. When the land is degraded it leads to soil erosion, more acidic soil, declining native vegetation and then weeds and other unpleasant plants will increase and cause problems. Water is also being over-extracted from the river, which is used for hydroelectric power and for irrigation. The quality of the water is becoming poor from the turbidity and nutrients being added from the erosion of the banks and from the constant extracting from the river.

Another problem with the river is the high salinity concentration. The salinity is caused by salts from the weathering of rocks, from naturally saline groundwater, and from salt deposited over thousands of years by precipitation (cyclic salt). This salinity is causing problems many of the agriculture, domestic, and industrial processes in the Murray-Darling Basin area.

The Murray Darling Basin Initiative is the largest integrated catchment program in the world, covering an area of over one million square kilometers. The Initiative was established by the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement, which was signed by the Governments of the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia in 1987. Then there was a revision of the Initiative Agreement in 1992 when Queensland signed it with the Australian Capital Territory being added in 1998. The purpose of the Initiative is to promote and coordinate effective planning and management for the efficient and sustainable use of the water, land and other environmental resources of the Murray-Darling river system.

The River Murray does get polluted by other things. Stormwater collects pollutants and washes them into the river. Blue-green algae contain toxic compounds that can kill stock and cause health problems for humans. Litter is dumped in wetland areas or is left lying on the riverbanks to be washed into the river with run-off. However, these pollution problems are relatively minor and can be handled simply in comparison with the more complex and expensive management needed to combat salinity.

Here is a table of the major management resources issues.
 
Land  Water Other environmental Cultural Management
Irrigation salinity and

waterlogging

Soil structure and fertility decline

Wind and water erosion

Soil acidification

Dryland salinity

Pest plants and animals

Deterioration of groundwater resources

Over-commitment of water resources

Deteriorating quality:

· salinity

· turbidity

· pesticides

· bacteria and viruses

· nutrients

Clearance and decline of native vegetation

Habitat destruction/ modification

Destruction of natural heritage sites

Species decline and extinction

Degradation of wetlands

Deterioration of aboriginal heritage sites

Deterioration of historic heritage sites

Degradation of tourist and recreation sites

Uncoordinated and inappropriate policies

Failure to apply existing regulations and policies

Technical knowledge gaps

Lack of community education/ information

Inappropriate management practices and land use