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The Murray-Darling Basin is an immense region covering more than one million square kilometres of south-eastern Australia, through which thousands of interconnected creeks and rivers occur. Beneath the land surface is an equally complex system of aquifers and groundwater.

Most of the waterways of the Basin eventually connect to the River Murray. However, the volume of water that flows into the Murray from its tributaries, and out to the Southern Ocean, is highly variable. The Basin is home to more than 2 million people, who make up a culturally rich community of Aboriginal people, descendants of convicts and European settlers, and migrants from all over the world. The people of the Basin live on the land and in villages, towns and regional cities, and their livelihoods are supported by primary, secondary and tertiary industries.

The Murray-Darling Basin is a working basin. In addition to sustaining rivers and floodplains, the water of the Basin is essential for households and communities, in and outside the Basin; it is culturally significant to Aboriginal people; and it is economically important for agricultural, food processing and manufacturing industries, as well as tourism. The challenge for all residents and governments of the Basin is to share the water so the wellbeing and prosperity of communities is maintained, traditional cultures are respected and the natural environment is protected or restored.