Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students investigate one of Australia’s most important and long running issues about how to best manage the Murray Darling Basin. Their research addresses the question ‘Food basket or basket case.’ They will need to find evidence that will indicate what the future holds for this region or provide a sound argument with references that there isn’t enough information to answer the question.

Learning goals:

  • Students examine a controversial issue, seeing if the evidence available supports some of the proposed solutions.
  • Students distinguish between opinion and evidence.
  • They extrapolate from past change in this region and predict future change depending on management strategies.
  • They form their own opinions about future solutions for this region.

Australian National Mapping 

Content descriptions:

Year 9 Science

  • People can use scientific knowledge to evaluate whether they should accept claims, explanations or predictions (ACSHE160)
  • Critically analyse the validity of information in secondary sources and evaluate the approaches used to solve problems (ACSIS172)

Year 9 English

  • Use comprehension strategies to compare and contrast information within and between texts, identifying and analysing embedded perspectives, and evaluating supporting evidence (ACELY1754)

Year 10 Science

  • Global systems, including the carbon cycle, rely on interactions involving the biosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere (ACSSU189)
  • People can use scientific knowledge to evaluate whether they should accept claims, explanations or predictions (ACSHE194)
  • Critically analyse the validity of information in secondary sources and evaluate the approaches used to solve problems (ACSIS206)

Year 10 English

  • Use comprehension strategies to compare and contrast information within and between texts, identifying and analysing embedded perspectives, and evaluating supporting evidence (ACELY1754) 

Syllabus OutcomesSC5-13ES, SC5-7WS, SC5-8WS, SC5-12ESEN5-2A

Topic: Water

Year levels: 9 and 10

Indoor or outdoor activity: Indoor

Time required: 90+ mins. Please note this activity can be extended over several lessons if time permits.

Learning areas addressed: Science, Geography.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Assist students with research and engage students in a discussion around their research.

Resources required: Internet and writing materials or computer.

Homework and extension opportunities: This activity can be extended over several lessons.

Keywords: Murray Darling Basin, Food, Future, Security, Issue, Irrigation, Economy, Agriculture, Media, Research, Report.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher preparation


The Murray Darling Basin is commonly called the Australian bread basket and its catchment covers four States. Water allocation is the major controversial issue in this region. The water from the Murray Darling system is used for irrigation and as a water supply for the many towns in the region. The region’s economy is very dependent on agriculture and one of the major growth industries is tourism.

There are many overlapping issues about the Murray River water as a resource including:

  • The large river's red gum forests depend on flooding every few years. 
  • There is a greater demand for water for agriculture than what can possibly be met.
  • Farmers own water rights so farmers without water ownership can’t access water unless they buy someone else’s allocation.
  • South Australia is at the end of the Murray and its vast freshwater habitats, such as the Coorong, are extremely dependent on the Murray River water.

Much of what people read and hear in

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Student Worksheet

This is a research based activity that is divided into three parts. You will need to complete all three parts in order to write a final report on the potential future of the Murray Darling Basin.

Part 1: Where and what is the Murray Darling Basin?

Part 2: What are the current environmental and agricultural issues surrounding the Murray Darling Basin?

Part 3: What conclusions can you draw from your research about the future of the Murray Darling Basin?

What and where is the Murray Darling Basin?

  • What states does the Murray Darling Basin Span?
  • What industries rely on the Murray Darling Basin? 
  • Are there any native flora or fauna that are critically dependent on the Murray Darling Basin?

"Bread Basket or Basket Case?"

  • What are the main issues surrounding the Murray Darling Basin? 
  • Who and what requires access to the water and what for?

What does the future hold for the Murray Darling Basin?

  • Using your research skills, formulate a one page report that outlin
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