The River Murray is the longest river in Australia. It stretches for 2,508 km from the Australian Alps to the Southern Ocean. Australia is home to many rivers which have been important to indigenous communities for centuries. The rivers of Australia play economic, social, ecological, and cultural roles in modern day Australia.
The Top 3 Longest Rivers In Australia
1. Murray - 2,508 km
The river boasts a rich history, as aboriginal groups have relied on it for sustenance for centuries. The river also had cultural importance for the aboriginal tribes inhabiting the river’s basin. A typical folk tale among the groups was that of a hunter chasing a Murray cod and carving out the river as a result. The river was discovered by European explorers in 1824 after which it was used for navigation, irrigation, and water supply. The Murray River today is home to dams and locks and weirs to control water quantities during drought or floods and hydroelectric projects. Social and recreational facilities such as the annual canoe race are popular in River Murray. Aquafauna present in the river includes Murray cod, perch, catfish, western carp gudgeon, and trout cod. Other fauna on the river’s basin include turtles, koalas, pelicans, Gray kangaroos, and lizards. The river has been negatively impacted by increased salinity levels, climate change, and over-extraction of water.
2. Murrumbidgee - 1,485 km
Murrumbidgee River, a tributary of the Murray River, flows for 1,485 km from the Australian Alps meandering its way to join the Murray River in the riverine plains. Historically, the river provided food and water to the aboriginal people on its banks. In the Wiradjuri language, the river’s name translates to "big water". The river facilitated the settlement of Europeans who used the water for irrigation. The river sustains many tributaries, swamps, and wetlands deemed to be ecologically significant. Navigation was facilitated with the introduction of steamboats and irrigation was further promoted by the construction of dams. In the modern day, the river is crucial for the agricultural and tourism sector of the region as well as for hydroelectric power and water extraction. The water is home to populations of Murray cod, Murray Cray, perch, crayfish, trout cod, Mountain galaxies, and Australian smelt. Threats to the river include increased sedimentation, alien fish species, reduced water flow, and physical disturbances.
3. Darling - 1,472 km
The Darling River is a tributary of the Murray River and flows from southwest Queensland. The river has been used for navigation for centuries. Along its banks, the river's waters are used for small-scale agriculture and grazing. A network of dams and reservoirs have been built to control floods and supply irrigation schemes. Excessive water extraction has however caused the water quantity to decline. Pollution from pesticides and extended periods of droughts has had negative impacts on the flow of the river. The river supports populations of perch, catfish, Murray cod, and Murray hardyhead as well as lizards, frogs, turtles, rats, koalas, and possums.
Other Rivers in Australia
The rest of Australia’s longest rivers are Lachlan (1,448 km), Warrego River (1,380 km), Cooper Creek (1,300 km) and Paroo River (1,210 km). The sustainability of Australia’s rivers is threatened by physical disturbance such as the construction of dams, excessive water extraction, human activities, pollution, and climate change.