South Australia is sparsely settled, with over 80% of its population living in Adelaide and a handful of major rural centres. The state’s productive agricultural regions are clustered in the south and in the Murray River irrigation belt. As you travel further north or west the terrain becomes increasingly drier and more inhospitable; the outback, which takes up more than 75% of the state’s area, is largely semidesert.
The state’s most important watercourse is the Murray River, which rises in the Australian Alps and meets the sea by Lake Alexandrina. The state’s low and unreliable rainfall has resulted in water from the Murray being piped over long distances to ensure the survival of many communities, including Adelaide. In fact, around 90% of South Australians depend either wholly or partly on the river for their water supply. The continuing deterioration of the Murray’s water quality and flow rates is of major concern to the state.
South Australia has a Mediterranean climate of hot, dry summers and cool winters, with most rain falling between May and August. Heat is the major climatic extreme, with daily maximums around 38°C common in the outback from October to April.