Prime Minister Julia Gillard has pledged $1.7 billion over 10 years as part of plans to significantly increase environmental flows in the Murray-Darling river system.
The bulk of the money will be used to make farms more water efficient and remove "capacity constraints", such as low-lying bridges that limit water flows down the river.
The extra water savings will be in addition to the draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan that recommends 2,750 gigalitres be returned to the environment, taking the new total to 3,200 GL.
But the new plan comes with a five-year delay in the timeframe, meaning the full environmental benefit of the spending will not be realised until 2024.
Ms Gillard travelled to the mouth of the Murray River in South Australia along with Environment Minister Tony Burke to make the announcement.
"More water means better environmental outcomes, it means that the river (and) the basin will be more resilient for the future," Ms Gillard told reporters in Goolwa.
"So, when in the future we are again challenged by drought - as we inevitably will be - then the Murray Darling basin can be more resilient."
Regional communities along the river system have previously expressed strong concerns that water buybacks could threaten the economic future of their towns.
But Mr Burke has moved to quickly reassure basin communities that the extra 450 gigalitres will be achieved "largely" through on-farm investments.
"Out of this announcement you get infrastructure projects which provide jobs in themselves and make those communities more efficient," Mr Burke told ABC radio's AM program.
"They also get a healthier river out of this.
"There is no downside for communities in today's announcement, but there is a huge upside for the environment."
Image Credits: Jack Grieve (submitted to www.abc.net.au)
Scientists studying the fault beneath the Spanish city of Lorca say that groundwater removal may be implicated in a deadly 2011 earthquake there.
Detailed surface maps from satellite studies allowed them to infer which parts of the ground moved where.
They report in Nature Geoscience that those shifts correlate with locations where water has been drained for years.
The study highlights how human activity such as drainage or borehole drilling can have far-reaching seismic effects.
Pablo Gonzalez of the University of Western Ontario and colleagues used satellite radar data to trace the ground movements of the Lorca event back to their source, finding that the earthquake resulted from slippage on a comparatively shallow fault that borders a large water basin south of the city.
That the slippage happened at a depth of just 3km explains why the fairly mild Magnitude 5.1 quake caused so much damage in the area.
The team went on to study potential reasons for the slippage, finding that the water table in the adjacent Alto Guadalentin basin had dropped by some 250m over the last 50 years as water was drained for irrigation in the region.
Their calculations show that this created stresses on the fault that initially triggered the earthquake and defined its eventual magnitude.
However, the area lies on a seismically active region, and the data suggest only that the water drainage sped up and eventually triggered a process that would have eventually happened anyway.
Dr Gonzalez stressed the study was specific to the Lorca earthquake, telling the Reuters news agency that "we cannot set up a rule just by studying a single particular case".
"But the evidence that we have collected in this study could be necessary to expand research in other future events that occur near... dams, aquifers and melting glaciers, where you have tectonic faults close to these sources."
In an accompanying Nature Geoscience article, Jean-Philippe Avouac of the California Institute of Technology said: "It does not take much to trigger an earthquake - even strong rainfall can do the job".
A 50-YEAR strategy to restore native fish populations across the Murray-Darling Basin is on the chopping block after state government officials decided to wind back its funding next year.
The Age believes the strategy's funding cull came at a recent meeting of basin states officials and follows a $20 million cut by the New South Wales government in its contribution to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority overseeing restoration plans for the river system.
The native fish strategy has been in place for almost 10 years and is one of the most successful and loved river programs. Conservationists, irrigators, and anglers are fuming and are looking at ways to ensure its future.
The strategy aims to restore native fish populations - including iconic species such as the Murray cod and Macquarie perch - to 60 per cent of numbers before European settlement.
In recent years populations have been estimated to be around 10 per cent.
Work under the strategy includes a massive fish ladder project between the Murray mouth and Lake Hume, providing safe passage for fish through 2225 kilometres of river.
Numerous habitat restoration projects, community outreach programs, and key scientific research have also emerged from the strategy, which has had a budget of about $2 to $3 million a year.
Under the next 10-year stage of the strategy it is proposed another 3900 kilometres of safe fish passage be developed. There is also an aim to allow no new incursions of pest fish species, among numerous other targets.
Victorian Water Minister Peter Walsh said the NSW budget cuts had triggered a ''hard look'' at what the Murray-Darling Basin Authority did and how much it cost the states.
He said work was underway on a new financial plan to be brought to basin state ministers in October.
Bolivian President Evo Morales has enacted a law aimed at protecting a unique species of dolphins that live in the country's Amazon rivers.
The new legislation bans fishing freshwater pink dolphins and declares the species a national treasure.
At a ceremony along the shores of the Ibare river, President Morales called on the armed forces to protect the habitats of the pink dolphins
The species is threatened by erosion, pollution and logging in the Amazon.
The Bolivian pink dolphin, whose scientific name is Inia boliviensis, is similar to mammals found in neighbouring Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela.
Male Bolivian freshwater pink dolphins can weigh up to 200kg (440 pounds).
An appendix to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (Cites) says the species is vulnerable because of overfishing in the Amazon basin.
But it says the main threat is the contamination of rivers in the region by mercury, used in illegal gold mining operations.
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