In a land as ancient and dry as Australia, water is a vital resource. The Murray River is Australia’s longest river at 2500 kilometers in length. It forms the lifeblood of the agricultural regions of several states, and is heavily tapped in some areas for the purposes of irrigation. This causes great frustration in states like South Australia, where the volume of natural water flows can be heavily impacted by over-irrigation in states further north.
Just several years ago, the water of the Murray River mouth near the town of Goolwa was drastically low, and rising salt levels were affecting the local environment. The South Australian Government blamed northern states for their lack of foresight in taking too much water from the Murray for their own farmland. Water is arguably even more precious in my home state of South Australia, given that we live in the driest state in the driest conmtinent on the planet. Even as recently as 2014, the South Australian Government was seeking cooperation from their northern neighbours for the purposes of mitigating salinity levels in Lake Albert.
For the Aboriginal people of Australia, the Murray River is surrounded by mythology, and takes centre stage in their Dreamtime creation stories. Even now many years later, I fondly remember being told the Dreamtime story of Tiddalik the Frog, who was so thirsty one morning that he drank all of the fresh water !
In my last post, I spoke about our day trip to some areas of the Riverland, including Waikerie and Blanchetown. The landscape is typically South Australian, featuring the grey green hues of native Gum trees, and vast stretches of sandy soil set against the murky flows of the Murray River.
During the summer months, the landscape dries out quickly beyond the banks of the Murray River. In the photo above, you can see one of the many houseboats for rental that forms part of a thriving holiday industry. Towns like Morgan, Mannum, Blanchetown and Waikerie are popular holiday destinations for South Australians looking to relax by the river. But despite the relaxed atmosphere, farming needs are never far away. If you look closely you can see one of the many Viterra grain towers looming over the river..
The Gum trees close to the riverbank are often twisted and contorted into unusual shapes. They stand starkly against the deep blue of the summer sky and the dry brown and yellow land.