Most of Australia’s inland rivers, including those in the Murray-Darling Basin, can be classed as ‘dryland’ rivers. They flow through landscapes of low rainfall, experience high evaporation rates, and have some of the most variable flow patterns of rivers anywhere in the world.
They can flood across their huge floodplains with the water reaching up to the tops of the fringing trees. They can also dry up into a few permanent waterholes.
Such ‘booms and busts’ continue to cause hardships for rural communities in the Darling catchment, but the native animals, plants, fish and birds are well-adapted to these highly variable river flow patterns. In fact, these animals and plants and their environments depend upon these periods of flooding and drying in the rivers, lakes and wetlands.
Whether they are full or nearly empty, the Darling River and its tributaries continue to provide the links and corridors that connect one part of the catchment landscape to the other. Importantly, they also link the rivers to the many wetlands and lakes that occur along the Darling and its tributaries. These water features are vital to the catchment’s environment and river health. They are also important for rural communities for agricultural, recreational, environmental and natural resource management needs.
This section looks at these vital rivers, lakes and wetlands. It shows how they link to, and are dependent on each other, as well as the broader catchment. Their management will very much determine a sustainable and balanced future for the Darling catchment and its communities.