By Liz Au
If you are new to all things Australia or just a little bit clueless about the nation’s geography or both (like me), you may not have ever heard of the Murray Darling Basin nor understand even a fraction of its agricultural significance. No worries, me neither.
Turns out, the Murray Darling Basin is this inspiringly massive expanse of land that stretches across 14% of the total area of Australia (a country of equal geographical size to the U.S., believe it or not). It is invaluable to the country, housing over 40% of all Australian farms, and producing one third of Australia’s food supply and supporting over one third of Australia’s total gross value of agricultural production of crops like rice, fruits and vegetables (things that I consume basically everyday, living here in Sydney!).
Water is absolutely essential for the Basin’s heavy agricultural life and is by far the Basin’s most valuable resource. Did you know that it takes approximately 1550 liters of water to produce just 1kg of paddy rice? Unfortunately, water only comes from a small percentage of the Basin’s vast territory, an amount dramatically lessened due to a devastating drought back in 1995. In the years after that until now, almost all parts of the Basin have suffered reduced crop output and diminished water supply. It has moved political parties to work seriously in revising the up-and-coming Murray Darling Basin Plan, which is an important effort to conserve and recover the Basin’s water supply by setting a capstone on how much water can be taken out of it.
Why is it that it’s only when we are about to lose something or losing it that we wake up from our apathy to see how important it is to us and how much better we could have treated it? Learning about the Murray Darling Basin is nothing but humbling. It has shown me how selfish and blind I am in my consumption of water, and continues to remind me of our Christian call to be stewards of creation, to be part of God’s effort to restore and reconcile all things to Himself in true shalom. Australians truly put me to shame when it comes to being that good steward.
I have been continuously struck by the way Australians consciously think about how they use water. It isn’t carelessly or selfishly. It is a lifestyle and commitment to preserving this dry nation’s limited supply of water by proactively trying to conserve it, such as with the Murray Darling Basin. For me personally, the change must begin with how I even see water. I have no entitlement to it. It is a gift to be cared for, even on the institutional level, and something I respect and will begin to use more carefully in light of the wider Australian—and even global—environmental picture. Thank you for that invaluable lesson, Murray Darling Basin. Aren’t you feeling proud right now, Captain Planet?