Australian irrigation may be cut to save rivers

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Farmers would lose more than a third of irrigation water in Australia's major food bowl, the Murray-Darling, under a plan to stop rivers drying up.

The move could cut the value of cotton production by 25 per cent, and farmers have warned of closures, job losses and higher food prices if the plan by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority is adopted by the government.

Environmentalists welcomed the cuts, saying they will help Australia's major river system survive future droughts brought on by climate change in the world's driest inhabited continent.