17 ‘Once more into the breach, dear friends …’ 153 To achieve reliability of water supply from the highly variable flows of the Cooper, the consortium also proposed to take water at very low flows: 400 ML/day from flows of only 1400 ML/day (29% of the flow) and reaching maximum pumping capacity of 920 ML/day at flows of only 8000 ML/day (11.5% of the flow). It became immediately obvious to the people of the Cooper that such an extraction regime would destroy the connectivity, afforded by low flows to downstream drought refuge waterholes. Cooper’s Creek Protection Group People from the Cooper and Diamantina Channel Country, and indeed all who formed the audience at the public meeting which introduced the irrigation proposal, were horrified at the prospect of destruction of their beloved Cooper by relentless water demand and by the toxic chemical pollution associated with irrigated agriculture. The Barcoo Shire Council relied on the Mayfield waterhole, immediately downstream from Currareva waterhole, for the Windorah town water supply and was understandably concerned. The local community immediately formed the Cooper’s Creek Protection Group, with members comprising Traditional Owners, workers, station managers, pastoralists, town residents, local business owners and people with an interest in or connection with the Channel Country and the Lake Eyre region. Its goal became the preservation of the ecological integrity and biodiversity of the Cooper system’s rivers, wetlands and landscapes, recognising that the region’s human communities and sustainable industries depended on the maintenance of this integrity. Since its inception, the group has actively promoted a policy against irrigation, intensive agriculture Fig. 17.2. The Currareva waterhole, part of Cooper Creek near the town of Windorah, was to be the proposed site for a massive irrigation development involving the pumping of water into large dams or ring tanks to irrigate cotton (photo, R. T. Kingsford).
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