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Lots of models, little monitoring: where is the MDB water?


IT MIGHT BE the biggest whodunnit — or what-dunnit — in Australia.

More than 2 trillion litres of water — enough to fill Sydney Harbour four and a half times — has gone missing from our largest and most precious river system — the Murray-Darling Basin.

And it’s happened in what was already one of the driest periods the basin has seen.

ABOVE: This map depicts what 2019 looked like in reality. There was much less water than expected. On the right, Lake Menindee after a good ‘Wet’ season. PHOTO: Photoholgic, Shutterstock.

According to an investigation by some of Australia’s top water scientists, shared exclusively with the ABC, 20 percent of the water expected to flow down the rivers from 2012–2019 was simply not there. That’s despite almost $7 billion being spent to protect the health of the system’s rivers and ecosystems that rely on them.

Was it stolen? Was it lost? Has climate change made it go up in steam? Or was it simply never there in the first place?

There are clues scattered up and down the rivers but one simple message is clear in the scientists’ findings. For the first time, they provide evidence that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan — the most expensive environmental program in Australia’s history — is delivering much less water than was expected.

By national science, technology and environment reporter Michael Slezak, Mark Doman, Katia Shatoba, Penny Timms and Alex Palmer. ABC News.

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