The Murrumbidgee River’s wet season height has dropped by 30% since the 1990s, and the outlook is bleak

The southern Murray-Darling Basin occupies the southern half of NSW and northern Victoria. It receives most of its water from rain in the cooler months that fills dams, with any overflow spilling into the floodplains.

The Murrumbidgee River catchment is approximately 84,000 square kilometres, or about 8% of the basin. It encompasses a complex series of wetlands and floodplains.

The height of the Murrumbidgee River—the third longest in Australia and highly valued for irrigation and hydro-electricity—has dropped by about 30% during the growing season. This is a loss of approximately 300 million litres per day.

The findings follow a major report the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released on Monday, which found much of Australia will become more arid as the world warms. This will bring reduced river flows, mass tree deaths, more droughts and drier soils.

Given this drop is associated with the wettest months from April to September, the outlook for the warmer months between October and March is dismal. The number of days when the river ceases to flow will certainly increase.

Dam building and excessive irrigation are often behind decreased river flows across the Murray-Darling Basin. But in this case, we can point to decreased rainfall from climate change as the reason the Murrumbidgee River catchment is losing water.

Under climate change, we can expect further drying of wetlands and major losses of wildlife habitat. For farmers and communities, we can expect huge reductions in the amount of water allocated for irrigation. The ability for communities to survive these severe decreases in agricultural productivity will be tested.

Drought hits South America river, threatening vast ecosystem

The Paraná River, one of the main commercial waterways in South America, has reached its lowest level in nearly 80 years due to a prolonged drought in Brazil that scientists attribute to climate change.

The Paraná waterway and its aquifers supply fresh water to some 40 million people in countries including Brazil and Argentina. In turn, it receives water from the Paraguay River, which has among its main sources the Pantanal area, a huge wetland located in the Mato Grosso region of southern Brazil.

The drought of the river is impacting the transport of goods. Vessels have had to reduce their tonnage by approximately 20% to continue moving. In 2019, 79 million tons of grain, flour and oil were exported from Rosario, according to the city’s stock exchange, making it one of the biggest agricultural export hubs in the world.

‘Mega-drought’ leaves many Andes mountains without snow cover

The Andes mountain range is facing historically low snowfall this year during a decade-long drought that scientists link to global warming.

“Here we are seeing a process of long-term decrease in precipitation, a mega-drought”

“The glaciers are in a very dramatic process of retreat that is much more accelerated than we have seen before.”

The current drought is worldwide. Here’s how different places are fighting it.

The world is facing unprecedented levels of drought.

American west stuck in cycle of ‘heat, drought and fire’

The intensity of the fires in California and Oregon is “not something you used to see” so early in the season.

Drought-hit ‘tinderbox’ California braces for fires in months ahead

“In the past, we may have had one fire in the summer that was notable. Now 50% of our fires are notable—and what I mean by notable is something that really, really exceeded our expectations on growth and intensity.”

CSIRO predicts more drought, drastic drop in Murray-Darling basin water

“Going to get worse.”