The Murray-Darling Basin is Australia's largest river system, reaching into Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and covering half of Victoria.
The Basin holds important social, economic and environmental values, and balancing these values is an ongoing effort.
The Basin is home to more than two million people, including about a half million Victorians. It is home to around 40 Aboriginal nations, whose spiritual connection to their land, water and environment has extended over many thousands of years.
Two-thirds of the nation's irrigated farmland is found in the Murray-Darling Basin, supporting strong rural communities and economies, and generating about 40 per cent of the nation's agricultural income.
The Basin also supports diverse ecosystems, including internationally-recognized Ramsar wetlands, and significant floodplains and river red gum forests. These ecosystems provide habitat for rare and endangered animals, as well as migratory birds.
A healthy Basin environment is in everyone’s interest – whether that be to ensure a high-quality water resource, or to protect and enhance the Basin’s natural assets for future generations.
Victoria's share of the Basin
Of the 77,000 kilometres of rivers in the Basin, those that flow through Victoria include part of the River Murray and its tributaries (the Kiewa, Ovens, Broken, Goulburn, Campaspe and Loddon river systems).
These networks of rivers, wetlands and floodplains are habitat to ancient river red gums and many plants and animals, with more than 400 high value wetlands in 30 wetland systems across Victoria's north.
These range from large areas of floodplain, such as the Barmah and Gunbower forests, to small wetlands on farms and public land.
Northern Victoria contributes significantly to the Australian economy through irrigated and dryland farming and associated industries.
The Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID) is the largest irrigation district in the Murray Darling Basin, covering the municipalities of Greater Shepparton, Swan Hill, Campaspe, Moira, Gannawarra and Loddon. The GMID hosts dairy, cropping and horticulture farms, and produces 21% of Australia’s milk, more than half of Victoria’s stone fruit, and three quarters of Australia’s pears
In north western Victoria on the south bank of the Murray River, the Sunraysia irrigation region is a significant producer of dried fruit, table grapes, wine grapes, almonds, pistachios, citrus and vegetables. The region exports about $340 million of agricultural exports annually.
Managing the Basin's water resources
Spanning four states, and the Australian Capital Territory, the Murray-Darling Basin has required a unique approach to managing its water resources. The Basin Plan sets out how the Basin’s water resources will be managed in a more sustainable way, and shared between all water users, including the environment.
In the past, co-operation between the Commonwealth, Victorian, New South Wales and South Australian Governments has been determined under the 1915 River Murray Waters Agreement, and the 1987 Murray-Darling Basin Agreement, which included the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland.
In 2007 the Commonwealth Government assumed a greater role in Basin water management when it passed the Water Act 2007. The Water Act 2007 integrated the management of Basin water resources, including new limits on how much water can be taken from the Basin's surface and groundwater systems.
It established the independent Murray-Darling Basin Authority, which was charged with preparing a Murray-Darling Basin Plan.