Murray running dry

Published: Saturday 15 April 2000

diverted for farm irrigation, dams and towns use of its waters, the once-mighty Murray river at present flows into the sea in a trickle. Worse, the river has a high level of pollution by the time it enters the sea near Adelaide, capital of the state of South Australia.

At its source in southeast Australia, the waters of the Murray are crystal clear. But the river in Adelaide carries with it large quantities of agricultural chemicals, salt and other pollutants -- all due to unsustainable farm management practices. Premier John Oslen of South Australia recently threatened to pass legislation that would confer on his state the power to take legal action against those in other states who are responsible for polluting the river and also for the costs incurred by South Australia to clean it.

The Murray is the main source of drinking water for Adelaide. But last year an official report issued a warning that if the river was not cleaned up, its water would be undrinkable within 20 years. Meanwhile, a private company that has been given charge to clean up the Murray has admitted that it is unable to give consumers any guarantee of protection against certain parasite infections.

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