Journal article

Australia's mass fish kills as a crisis of modern water: Understanding hydrosocial change in the Murray-Darling Basin

Sue Jackson, Lesley Head



In the summer of 2018/19, a series of fish kills on the Darling River attracted international attention. We analyse the disaster as a crisis of modern water within the hydrosocial cycle framework formulated by Linton and Budds. Using archival analysis we identify four phases in the emergence and transformation of modern water in the Murray-Darling Basin generally and the lower Darling specifically; navigation flows (1850–1900s), entitlement flows (1880–1940s), exchange water (1950–1990s) and saved water (2000s-present). The phases are driven by conceptual abstraction and commensuration, leading in turn to the material abstraction of water from the lower Darling, rendering the river and its c..

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Awarded by Australian Research Council

Funding Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Australian Research Council (FT130101145, DP190100875) and a grant from the University of Melbourne's Faculty of Science Research Grant Support Scheme.