Lake Eyre Basin Rivers 134 Further, whatever the final amount of water to be returned to the environment, actual delivery depends on significant coordination and goodwill. Inflows into the Condamine– Balonne are declining due to unmeasured interceptions affecting the volume of water to the Lower Balonne floodplain. The Northern Basin Review identified poor compliance in the management of water, particularly in relation to low flows, publicly exhibited to the Brewarrina communities by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority in September 2015 at a Northern Basin Community consultation meeting. We need to improve measurement of water diversions and their regulation. With the significant concessions given to the irrigation industry and poor compliance, reduction in flows to the environment will continue to undermine sustainability and further reduce flows into Menindee Lakes on the Darling and eventually into the River Murray. Without marked improvement in flow recovery and its implementation, the Basin Plan will fail, leading to ongoing uncertainty and ongoing reform. Political will that ensures transparent coordination is essential. The lessons from the development of the Lower Balonne floodplain are simple. Small irrigation development leads to big irrigation development, as increased lobbying by irrigation industries allows more and more water to be developed. We need strong leadership, not beholden to sectorial interests, able to bring people of the Lower Balonne together and provide transparent outcomes that encourage greater and innovative irrigation production with less water. The environment needs more water and those of us who traditionally relied on natural floods need this water. Without this, the natural systems and people who rely on floodplain environments have little chance in the centuries ahead to recover the health and productivity of these magnificent river systems. The often quoted lines of Dorothea Mackellar that Australia is a land of ‘… droughts and flooding rains’ has fostered perceptions that both occur in equal measure. They don’t. The intervals between these floods have increased a lot in the Condamine–Balonne. Our developed systems need a base flow of water, through different climate scenarios. We need adaptive management. We need to ensure we reduce the lengths of the dry intervals between flows and increase longitudinal and lateral connectivity. And we need intergovernmental commitment and coordination to make sure this happens. Finally, we cannot afford to lose any more environmental water. References Brandis K, Kingsford RT, Ren S, Ramp D (2011) Crisis water management and ibis breeding at Narran Lakes in arid Australia. Environmental Management 48, 489–498. doi:10.1007/s00267- 011-9705-5 CSIRO (2008a) Water Availability in the Condamine-Balonne. A report to the Australian Government from the CSIRO Murray-Darling Basin Sustainable Yields Project. Canberra. CSIRO (2008b) Water availability in the Murray–Darling Basin. A report to the Australian Government from the CSIRO Murray–Darling Basin Sustainable Yields Project. CSIRO, Canberra. Cullen P, Marchant R, Mein R (2003) Review of science underpinning the assessment of the ecological condition of the Lower Balonne system. Report to the Queensland Government, Queensland, Brisbane. Gibbs LM (2009) Just add water: colonisation, water governance, and the Australian inland. Environment & Planning A 41, 2964–2983. doi:10.1068/a41214
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