Australia Boosts Murray-Darling Spending to Ensure Food Supply

Australia will spend an extra A$1.8 billion ($1.9 billion) to boost the amount of water returned to the Murray-Darling Basin as it seeks to ensure sustainable food production in the world’s second-biggest wheat exporter.

The funds will be provided over 10 years from 2014 to return an extra 450 gigaliters of water to the system, through measures including removing low-lying bridges and undersized dam outlets, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a statement today. That will take the total amount of water returned to the basin to 3,200 gigaliters, the government said.

The Murray-Darling Basin, which extends from southern Queensland to South Australia, covers 14 percent of Australia’s land and produces more than one-third of the nation’s food including wheat and dairy. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority was set up in 2008 to create a plan to manage water in an area where some river beds run dry in years of drought.

The additional water will “help ensure the system never again goes into a period of drought lacking the resilience it needs to survive,” the statement said.

Water storages in the Murray-Darling Basin were 97 percent full as of Oct. 24, data on the basin management authority’s website showed. Australia is the driest inhabited continent, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

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