The SA Murray-Darling Basin region (see map) extends from where the River Murray crosses the border from Victoria into South Australia, down to where it meets the sea at the Coorong. It covers 70,000 square kilometres and includes six distinct ecological areas:
- River Murray
- Coorong and Lower Lakes
- Murray Mallee
- Murray Plains
- Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges
- South Olary Plains.
The region’s natural resources support a wide range of human activities. The River Murray supplies the majority of the water needs for the capital city of Adelaide as well as other towns in the state. The natural resources also support tourism, recreation and manufacturing, as well as one of the most productive agricultural areas in South Australia. About 82% of the land in the region is used for primary production, including pastoral lands, dryland cropping, grazing, horticulture, irrigation and dairy farming.
Within the region, there are ecosystems that are of state, national and international significance, including the Ramsar-listed Chowilla Floodplain and the Coorong and Lower Lakes. As a result, there are large areas of national parks dedicated to nature conservation.
Native species in the region
The region is also home to a diverse range of native plants and animals, many of them under threat:
- 95 species of native mammal, of which 45 are under threat
- 110 species of native reptiles, of which two are endangered and five are vulnerable
- 13 species of native frogs, with the Golden Bell Frog considered nationally vulnerable
- 31 species of native freshwater fish, with four listed as threatened
- 3 species of threatened native estuarine fish.
Threats in the region
The major threats to the natural resources in the region are:
- the impact of introduced pest plant and animals
- the continued fragmentation and decline of remnant native ecosystems
- ongoing land degradation processes such as dry land salinity and soil acidity
- the allocation, capture and non-licensed taking of water resources beyond sustainable limits
- altered flows within river systems
- declining water quality due to increasing salinity, nutrients and pollution
- inappropriate development practices
- risks associated with a warmer, drier region under climate change predictions
- unintended degradation due to a lack of broad community understanding of many natural resources processes and best management practices.
Managing natural resources in the region
Managing natural resources in the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin region is important and challenging. The region is home to over 110,000 people who use and enjoy the natural resources of the River Murray and surrounding areas. It is also home to South Australia’s most productive agricultural region and ecosystems that are internationally recognised as having significant environmental importance. Managing natural resources is about working together to ensure that these needs of the community, industries and the environment are balanced in a way that is sustainable.
With this balance in mind, the vision for natural resources management in the SA Murray-Darling Basin region is 'a healthy, living landscape meeting the social, environmental, economic and cultural needs of the community, and ensuring the rights and wellbeing of future generations'. To achieve this vision, the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board has worked with the community and stakeholders to develop a Regional NRM Plan that sets targets for the condition of the environment in the region. Natural Resources SA Murray-Darling Basin works with the community, industries and three tiers of government to deliver programs and projects that aim to achieve these targets.