10 January 2010

Riverbank collapses on the Murray River in Australia

Posted by Dave Petley

As I am currently in Sydney en route to New Zealand it seemed appropriate to post an Australian story. Australia rarely appears on the fatal landslide database, but it currently has a profound slope failure issue of its own, which is sufficiently serious to merit a campaign by a newspaper.

The issue is related to the Murray River in the southeast of the country:

The problem is that the Murray River is currently suffering river bank collapses along a 270 km stretch. The land adjacent to the banks is cracking, some collapses have already occurred, and the situation is getting progressively worse.

Image of an ongoing riverbank failure on the Murray (from here)

The problem is being blamed on the current drought in south Australia. As a result the flow level in the Murray River is at historically low levels. It is not immediately clear to me whether this means that the riverbanks have been debutressed by the reduced flow, or are cracking due to being exceptionally dry, or have lost the stabilising affect of vegetation due to the drought, or a combination of all three (or even some other factor), but the situation is clearly critical.