WaterMarks is a series by Paul Harmon, an Australian photographer, featuring landscapes of the Murray-Darling river basin in New South Wales, Australia. This river supported indigenous people in Australia for many thousands of years; then about 170 years ago these people were forced off their land into “missions” and the assault of industrial agriculture began. The river floodplains were dammed, dyked and farmed, displacing countless species many of whom are now endangered or extinct. The wetlands have been reduced to ponds, and cattle and sheep have “laid waste to the natural environment” as Paul Harmon says.

Without the river and the wetlands, little birdlife remains in what is left of the marshes along the river, and the lakes are all but gone.

Mr. Harmon photographs these landscapes with a drone and stitches together up to 120 photographs to create these expansive vistas exploring the devastating effects of human rapaciousness on the land and water.

As of August 8, 2018, New South Wales is in a state of drought emergency, with the entire region being in what is described as the worst drought in living memory.

The indigenous peoples of this region lived sustainably on this land for thousands of years; within 170 years of white occupation, there is little left of the river and the land. Climate change will worsen droughts as the global average temperature continues to warm. We can only anticipate that the situation will continue to get worse.

For more on this story, see:

The Guardian: Beautiful and Frightening: Australia’s rivers under threat—in pictures.

Paul Harmon’s web site

BBC: New South Wales drought now affects entire state.