Lake Eyre Basin Rivers 78 also sustain a highly profitable organic beef industry (see Chapters 10 and 11). The floods and the outback experience are also a strong generator of tourism income (Schmiechen 2004), as people flock to see the floodwaters that occasionally reach Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre (see Chapter 13). These interdependencies are reflected in strong partnerships forged to protect the rivers. Strong formal and informal partnerships now exist among communities involved in the management of the Lake Eyre Basin rivers and their water. These alliances were primarily catalysed by a proposal to grow irrigated cotton on the Cooper Creek floodplain, near Windorah (see Chapter 17 Table 7.1). River champions emerged from all walks of life to express deep concern about this major water resource development. They were Traditional Owners, graziers, local, state and national government members, scientists and people involved in the tourism industry. Their view of the Basin and its rivers generally ignored state political boundaries, instead recognising and embracing the importance of the connectedness of this vast river system, from north-west Queensland and the Northern Territory to Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre in South Australia. Concern about the future of the river was borne of an understanding of this connectedness, but also for the potential impacts of water resource development on cultural and environmental values. As with many rivers across the world, development of upstream water resources has had major long-term impacts on downstream ecosystems and human communities (Lemly et al. 2000). Avoiding such impacts became a major community focus for the management and use of water resources in the Lake Eyre Basin, underpinned by a formal and informal network of partnerships. In 2014, the Lake Eyre Basin Partnership formed as a loose community coalition, with three regional natural resource management groups across three jurisdictions at its core: Desert Channels Queensland, South Australian Arid Lands Natural Resources Management Board, and Territory Natural Resource Management (Fig. 7.2a). In this chapter, we trace the genesis of the different partnerships and their effectiveness, culminating in the winning of the Australian Riverprize in 2014 and the International Riverprize in 2015. For the first time in the 17 years of awarding the International Riverprize, judges decided to reward a community for effectively protecting, rather than rehabilitating a major river system – the Lake Eyre Basin, one of the world’s greatest inland river regions. Challenges to sustainability – water access Australia and many other parts of the world have generally had a strong drive to develop water resources for irrigated agriculture, rarely valuing water for the environment adequately (Gibbs 2006 Gibbs 2009). In the 1990s, integrated catchment planning was in its infancy in Australia and was poorly developed outside of highly managed systems such as the Murray– Darling Basin in south-east Australia. There was no equivalent model for managing a free- flowing river system the size of the Lake Eyre Basin. The results of scientific work about the long-term impacts of water resource developments around the world and particularly from the rivers of the Murray–Darling Basin were also rapidly accumulating. There was growing understanding of the global extremes of variability experienced by the Lake Eyre Basin rivers (Puckridge et al. 1998 Puckridge et al. 2000 McMahon et al. 2008a McMahon et al. 2008b) and the incredible cultural, environmental and economic values that their water supported.
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