But Richard Kingsford, the director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW, said it was a disaster that had been many years in the making because too much water had been diverted from the system for agriculture.
“Droughts would have contributed to the blue green algae outbreak,” he said. “But the river droughts are happening more often and they’re more intense as a result of the irrigation industry in the Darling diverting water from the river over the last 10 to 20 years.”
The cotton industry says it is not to blame for the mass deaths of hundreds of thousands of fish in the Darling River and is tired of being a “whipping boy” for problems associated with the drought.
Communities in the Menindee Lakes region, where two fish kills have occurred since December, have said over-extraction by irrigators helped cause the catastrophe that has put a spotlight on the environmental management of Australia’s largest river system.