‘Irrigation hunger games’: Battle over Australia’s food bowl soon to heat up

A photograph of Paul Porter, a fifth-generation farmer, sitting under a dead grey box tree amid indigo bushes and lignum in part of the Mirrool Creek on his property in the Riverina.
20 June 2021

On a recent wintry morning, farmer Paul Porter surveyed a dying stand of grey box trees lining Mirrool Creek that meanders 15 kilometres through his “Mywurlie” property near Booligal in the NSW Riverina.

The area, described unflatteringly in an 1896 Banjo Patterson poem as “worse than hell itself”, supports grazing and crops like barley and wheat. And when the water flows, birds such as mountain ducks and endangered Australasian bitterns fly in, while turtles, snakes and fish flourish.

Nowadays, though, flows typically only reach Porter’s 12,000 hectare spread when the Barren Box Swamp – formally converted into a “storage” area by the NSW government in 2005 – gets too full for its operators, the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, to handle.

Read the full article on The Sydney Morning Herald website, featuring Prof Mark Howden and Prof Jamie Pittock