Lake Eyre Basin Rivers 130 water to reach the end of the Lower Balonne system, except in extremely large floods. The social and economic impacts were real and harmful, even affecting the reliability of essential river flows for livestock and homesteads (stock and domestic flows). Downstream graziers and communities at Goodooga and Weilmoringle were particularly stressed (Fig. 14.1). The speed of development and lack of government transparency were overwhelming (Tan 2000). Grazing communities were slow to respond, struggling to build cogent arguments and evidence that would convince legislators and bureaucrats (see Chapter 15). These grazing communities had a deep understanding of the complexity of the flows in the river which did not match the simplification and jargon of water management. Their pleas fell on deaf ears, possibly because of the complexity of explaining changes to flows in such a variable system and a perception by some government officers that the grazing industry belonged to the Stone Age. The scale and depth of impact that irrigation brought to all who lived on the Lower Balonne floodplain, including the irrigation communities, was all too apparent with the Millennium Drought. No water flowed into internationally important Narran Lake (Fig. 14.3) for over a thousand days, defying the history books and exceeding the longest previous dry spell by about 400 days. The lakes system was renowned for its spectacular colonies of breeding birds, but even these were severely affected by the effects of water resource development Fig. 14.3. Floodplains of the Narran Lake system, an internationally listed Ramsar site, like all floodplains on the Lower Balonne, rely on river flows from upstream, triggering widespread flooding and breeding of colonial waterbirds. Diversions of flows upstream to irrigation development have reduced the frequency of breeding events and degraded floodplain health (photo, R. T. Kingsford).
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