The River Murray

River Murray case study


eWater CRC is working in partnership with some of Australia’s key river management agencies to develop the next generation of river system operations tool. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is trialling the operational mode of Source to support operation decisions in the River Murray System. The aim of the trial is to improve water management and delivery for agriculture, communities and the riverine environment in the southern Murray-Darling Basin.

Water supplied along the River Murray System is essential for:

  • irrigation in one of Australia’s major agricultural production areas
  • consumptive use in many towns and communities including the city of Adelaide
  • maintaining the riverine ecosystem and other environmental assets.                                          

Management responsibility for this system lies with the MDBA, in a collaborative arrangement with the State jurisdictions through which the system flows. It is a sophisticated process involving daily data collection, analysis and decisions as well as planning many months in advance. Decisions are complicated due to a myriad of constraints and system attributes. For example, there are long travel times along the river channel from the point of release to the point of diversion and use, taking about a month for water to travel in the River Murray channel from Hume Dam to the South Australian border.

Operators must correctly follow agreed water use rules, ensure flows are maintained along the length of the river and provide a sustainable flow of water that balances riverine environmental needs with all other water use requirements. In addition, the MDBA operators must deal with floods and manage them to ensure the safety and integrity of dams and other structures. In a region subject to significant climate and stream flow variability, water resources are often under high demand pressures. By using the most accurate and detailed system model, river operators can improve the information, insight and data synthesis for supporting decisions and dealing with the increasingly intricate and complex water sharing arrangements and system operational demands.

Application and eWater’s input

The focus for the River Murray trial is on the upper Murray catchment and key upstream tributaries where important inflows and storages are managed for distribution and delivery downstream. eWater and the MDBA are using Source to build comprehensive river system simulation models. Using these models, operators can easily compare the way water moves through the river system in response to different inflow and operational scenarios over a range of time scales. With input from MDBA operational staff, eWater is designing and customising the functionality of the Source operational component to best meet the specific requirements needed to operate a complex river system.


By developing Source as a planning and operational tool, eWater is developing a standard modelling platform that will be useable across almost any managed catchment. It will enable managers dealing with daily operations, water accounting and long term planning to compare analyses using a common platform and river system model. The tool will have a clear and intuitive interface and allow flexibility in developing and modifying the simulation model. A high level of sophistication in the treatment of model parameters, such as flow routing, will enhance system understanding and forecasting precision. Scenarios and data will be uploaded and retained as information and context supporting the operational decisions that are made.

Source will also give operators the ability to model water ownership across an entire river system enabling better efficiency and accuracy in accounting and water resource assessments.

Partner: Murray-Darling Basin Authority