1 Why is it important?

The condition of South Australia’s water resources, and trends in water quantity and quality are paramount issues for the state’s future. Our water resources are critical to life, the environment and economic growth.

High-quality water supplies are needed to support our growing population and enrich our surroundings. Our water resources hold community and Aboriginal cultural significance.

The state’s water resources support a diverse range of ecosystems, which include aquatic flora and fauna, wetland and riparian vegetation, and groundwater fauna. In addition, the state’s marine waters are recipients of run-off and, in some areas, groundwater from South Australia’s terrestrial areas. The state’s marine ecosystems are unique and among the most biologically diverse in the world, with many endemic species, and internationally and nationally important species.

Future water availability will also be a key determinant of industry growth, including in mining, manufacturing and agriculture.

Despite its largely arid to semi-arid setting, the South Australian landscape supports a surprisingly rich variety of riverine and wetland habitats. Wetlands are places in the environment where water and land meet—occasionally or permanently—including swamps, lakes, marshes, springs and floodplains. In addition to their obvious conservation values, rivers and wetlands provide a range of cultural, economic and ecosystem services.

The state’s water-related environmental assets include wetlands along the River Murray corridor that are included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, marshes in the south-east, significant rock holes in the northern parts of the state, and the rivers, creeks and estuaries of both urban and regional South Australia.

The Murray–Darling Basin is Australia’s largest river system and catchment, and the River Murray, its tributaries and Lower Lakes sustain South Australian communities and their economies. The Lower Lakes and Coorong area is recognised as one of Australia’s most significant ecological assets and is a Ramsar-listed wetland. This area is also of high cultural importance, particularly for the Ngarrindjeri people. The state also relies on a network of other rivers and creeks that, while not on the same scale as the River Murray, are also essential for the health and wellbeing of the South Australian environment and economy.

Less visible but no less important are the state’s significant groundwater resources, which deliver environmental, social and economic benefits by supplying drinking water, base flow to creeks and other water-dependent ecosystems, water for irrigation and industry, and habitat for groundwater-dependent organisms.

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