09 February, 2009

Nature, Harmony, and When There's None

Bleak. Stark. Still. We'd heard the stories and should've known, what with For Sale signs declaring the area's decline, that our drive through the towns of the Lower Murray would dampen the mood of our day.

Imagine you've based your life on a river. You fish for food and profit, you provide riverboats and tours for visitors. You do what your parents did, and their parents. You farm, live, exist on the river. Now, imagine a course of five years when the rains stop falling, irrigation channels are built, and the water slowly drains from your town like someone pulled the plug from the tub. This is what has happened in South Australian towns like Goolwa and the island of Hindmarsh.

A mixture of epic drought and urban water use has left the lower Murray, nearest it's mouth, with nothing but a small trickle of water. Boats sit neglected, run aground for more than a year, and tourism-centered main streets are left quiet, vacant.

I'd heard of this situation countless times on the news as some river-dwellers lobby for an injection of sea water into their basin, just to get the fishing boats afloat, and others still fight against the influx to avoid poisoning the fresh and brackish drizzle of water remaining with high-salt oceanic flow. It's another thing, entirely, to see it up close. To walk on what should have been covered three meters deep in brown-green currents.

Thanks to water locks and dams, the middle and upper Murray aren't suffering the same fate. Even other South Aussie spots, such as Renmark, are thriving on deep waters, their businesses taking up the tourist slack from the loss further south. But, as long as other states continue to drain the bulk of flow for their own use, the Murray's end will continue to become little more than a creek.

I wish there was a way, in our own homes, to contribute to the health of the Lower Murray, but it lies in the hands of politicians. This, of course, means it lies in the hands of registered voters. Follow your conscience. Even if you benefit from the re-routing of Murray waters, perhaps you can see clear to helping those who are suffering.

Climate and urban development have not been kind to Australia in the past few years. As I type this, hundreds of people are wading in knee-deep waters just to walk across their living room, submerged in the Queensland floods. Closer to home, tens of thousands of acres of Victorian and New South Wales homes, farms, and bushland are burning. And in our own back yard, there was an unbelievable life toll in the recent heat wave of more than a week above 40 C (104 F).

If the river's cause is not your cup of tea, then see if you can lend a hand to those surviving this impossible time, all during such an impossible economy. If you can't afford a financial donation, people in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and New South Wales are in need of many forms of assistance. Old air conditioners for heatwave sufferers, blood donations for fire victims, and gifts of food, clothing, books, and toys for both the flood and fire survivors. Below are a few links I've found of ways to help. If you know of others, please share them in comments.

For those worldwide, keep Australia in your thoughts.

Save the Murray, Red Cross Bushfire Relief Fund, Salvation Army Bushfire and Flood Relief Appeal, South Australian State Emergency Service, SA Drought Link


Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right in your plees for more water for the Murray. It is a travesty that this devastation has been allowed to happen.

Have you read Peter Andrews books, Back from the Brink and Beyond the brink? There are people with solutions, but sadly successive governments have refused to listen.

Kind regards

Anonymous said...

Robyn from the headwaters of the Murray Darling system says: Come & have a look up here, on the Condamine.

The only time it runs is when in flood, and then only for 3 days maybe ... no more cut off for more than 48hrs for over 15 yrs!

Why? Flood irrigation using "Holding Dams" on private property ... large enough to waterskie on! Evaporation rate? Who knows! Who cares? Just me, apparently ...

Also, what water does get into the Condamine is stymied at Warwick - a weir - for their city's use!

The Condamine was navigable ... and not that long ago; channel markers are still visible if you can manage a wander along the dry river bed ...

Have a look on Google Earth - you'll see these expanses of water ... pumped from the river as soon as it does run, & from the water table when it doesn't. Anyone bothered to look at the main geosat display of our artesian water table!

If we have a problem here, you have no hope down there ... no matter how hard you try. Has to be started here so you can have water too!

Kelly the City Mouse said...

To Michelle and Robyn: Hopefully the upcoming influx of promised money will help all concerned, those at the head and delta of the vital Murray. I think we should all commend Nick Xenophon for holding out for that advancement of funds.

Sometime in the next month the hubby and I will be having a holiday weekend near Renmark, one of the few places with ample Murray flow. It will be such a contrast to what we witnessed at the mouth.

PS: Apologies for waiting so long to reply. Life got away from us here on the Suburban Plot, but we're slowly reemerging.