As the floodwaters recede along the River Murray in South Australia, people are asking if the lock and weir system could have prevented some of the flooding.
The River Murray is dotted with structures that stop it from falling to its naturally low levels. The locks, weirs and barrages, build nearly 100 years ago, ensure that the river can always be navigated by boat, and farmers upstream can irrigate.
But what happens when there’s too much water – like in the most recent spate of floods? The wettest spring on record in southeastern Australia caused billions of litres of water rushing down the Murray each day. If we’d operated the locks and weirs differently, could we have prevented water levels from rising as much as they did?
Cosmos chats to Garry Fyfe, Senior Manager of River Murray Operations at SA Water, on how the locks and weirs work in ordinary times, and what happens when there’s a flood.
Originally published by Cosmos as If we can regulate the Murray, why can’t we stop it flooding?
Ellen Phiddian is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a BSc (Honours) in chemistry and science communication, and an MSc in science communication, both from the Australian National University.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.