Regulated Streams in Australia: The Murray-Darling River System

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Abstract

Australia has an image, both at home and abroad, as a land of wide open spaces. The land area is nearly that of the conterminous United States, yet there are fewer than two people for each square kilometer, compared with 26 people/km2 in the U.S. The disparity is related to the comparative scarcity of Australia’s water resources. Given low rainfall and high evaporative losses, yearly runoff averages about 45 mm, only one-sixth the North American average. In one year Australia’s rivers together discharge a volume only two-thirds that conveyed by the Mississippi River. Australia is, in fact, the driest of the inhabited continents.