Murray River

Murray River
Principal river of Australia.

Rising near Mount Kosciusko, in southeastern New South Wales, it flows across southeastern Australia from the Snowy Mountains to the Great Australian Bight of the Indian Ocean; it is 1,610 mi (2,590 km) long. It forms the boundary between Victoria and New South Wales and then turns south and flows into Encounter Bay through Lake Alexandrina. River shipping was important in the 19th century, but navigation practically ceased with growing competition from railways and the demand for irrigation water. The river valley is of great economic importance, fostering the production of grains, fruit, and wine, and the raising of cattle and sheep.

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 principal river of Australia and main stream of the Murray-Darling Basin. It flows some 1,572 miles (2,530 km) across southeastern Australia from the Snowy Mountains to the Great Australian Bight of the Indian Ocean. Although the Murray-Darling Basin has a total catchment area of 409,835 square miles (1,061,469 square km), the Murray's average annual discharge is only 31 cubic feet (0.89 cubic m) per second, and in places it has dried up on at least three occasions. Named after Colonial Secretary Sir George Murray, the river rises on The Pilot (a mountain), near Mount Kosciusko in southeastern New South Wales. It flows west and northwest, passes through Hume Reservoir above Albury, and forms most of the boundary between New South Wales and Victoria. At Morgan, S.Aus., it bends sharply southward to flow through Lake Alexandrina to Encounter Bay on the Great Australian Bight. For most of its course through South Australia (250 miles [400 km]), the river is bordered by a narrow floodplain and flows between cliffs 100 feet (30 m) high. Its upper 200 miles (320 km) cut through mountainous terrain. The central section, however, lies on a broad and mature floodplain, with the Riverina plains of New South Wales to the north and the plains of northern Victoria to the south. Its principal tributaries are the Darling River, Murrumbidgee River, Mitta Mitta, Ovens, Goulburn, Campaspe, and Loddon rivers.

      The Murray-Darling Basin, occupying about one-seventh of Australia's area, is of immense economic significance, lying across the great wheat–sheep belt in its climatically most reliable section. During the second half of the 19th century, river shipping was of great importance, but, with growing competition from railways and demand for irrigation water (first used at Mildura, 1886), navigation practically ceased. The basin has by far Australia's greatest area of irrigated crops and pastures, some 3.6 million acres (1.5 million hectares), more than 70 percent of the national total. Its chief products are cattle, sheep, grains, fruit, and wine. In 1915 the River Murray Commission, comprising representatives from the three state governments and the commonwealth, was established to regulate utilization of the river's waters. The largest reservoirs are the Dartmouth on the Mitta Mitta River and the Hume on the Murray. Dartmouth's dam, 180 m (591 feet) high, is the highest dam in the southern hemisphere. The multipurpose Snowy Mountains scheme (completed in 1974), increased the amount of water available for irrigation and generated large quantities of electrical power for peak load periods. Irrigation, however, led to serious salinity problems, so much so that Adelaide (which is almost completely dependent on the Murray for its water supply) on occasion has received water that, by World Health Organization (WHO) criteria, is unfit for drinking. The problem of Murray salinity has been recognized as of national significance to Australia. Legislative arrangements were drawn up in 1987 and 1992 to introduce comprehensive, basin-wide responses to environmental crises and the demand for sustainable development. Principal towns in the Murray Valley are Albury, Wodonga, Echuca, Swan Hill, Mildura, Renmark, and Murray Bridge.

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Universalium. 2010.

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