Australia's greatest river runs dry as drought takes hold

's greatest river is running dry because of a prolonged drought that has exacerbated the problems caused by farmers taking too much water to irrigate unsuitable crops.

Scientists fear that years of below-average rainfall in south-east Australia is turning the once mighty Murray river - known as the Australian Mississippi - from a gushing torrent to a trickling stream.

A build-up of sand and salt is the biggest problem generated by low rainfall that has dramatically changed the nature of the river over the past couple of decades.
"When we first came down here, we had wetlands in front of us," said Richard Owen, whose old shack overlooks the mouth of the Murray as it runs into the Southern ocean. "Now you can just walk up and across the sand. It's just filled up," Mr Owen said.

For the past three years, dredgers have been operating round the clock to keep the river's mouth from silting up. Even temporary respites in the drought - heavy rains last month and earlier in the year - do not seem to make much of an impact on the problem.

A forecast by the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, the organisation set up to manage the waterway, predicts that the total storage capacity of the river system will continue to decline next year, even with average rainfall.

Tag : , , , .