Monday, February 25, 2008

Satellite images reveals illegal Murray-Darling irrigation

A new report has exposed major flaws in the management of key rivers and flood plains along the Murray Darling Basin.

Satellite images of a key wetland in north-western New South Wales reveal more than 2,000 kilometres of earthworks have carved up the waterway.

While some of the channels and levees may have been authorised, others are considered illegal and are diverting water into irrigation and farming.

Scientists say the flood plains are being sucked dry and there is no legislation in place to stop further development.

The report says the plight of this wetland is similar to others in the Murray Darling system.

It is the most comprehensive analysis of flood plain development on any river in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Using satellite images and comparing aerial photographs over half a century, scientists took a closer look at the Macquarie marshes as a case study. It is a wetland that is internationally recognised and is surrounded by flood plains that are dependent on overflows from the river.

What they revealed is what scientists say is a maze of earthworks that are destroying the wetlands. This includes levees or banks up to five metres high, channels up to 20 kilometres long, and storage dams diverting water around the flood plains and away from the marshes.

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