Ensuring freshwater security within Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) is one of Australia’s greatest natural resource management challenges, involving complex ecological and sociological processes and decision-making. The Darling river supplies Menindee Lakes, one of its major dependent wetlands and a complex system of interconnected lakes, covering almost a third of Kinchega National Park. Menindee Lakes has been a major focus for water resource management from the mid-1950s through to today, where it’s a key focus for engineering works designed to save environmental water for the Murray-Darling Basin through increased efficiency.
Water is a politically charged issue in Basin communities. Water allocation and management decisions surrounding the Menindee Lakes and upstream have generated a considerable amount of conflict in local communities. In 2018/19 millions of dead fish were discovered along a stretch of the Darling river close to the town of Menindee in a series of fish kill events.
These events have impacted local communities, with events protesting the management of the Lakes and upstream water use. Future government plans for the Menindee Lakes involve a variety of proposed works that could significantly reduce the amount of water available to the lakes. Communities have expressed that government management processes have been limited in addressing the needs of different community groups in the development of these plans.
This study aims to investigate community perspectives on the past, current and future management of the Darling river and Menindee Lakes system that are not addressed by government management processes through a series of in-depth interviews with local stakeholders for the lakes, as well a broader community survey.
This study forms part of a larger project that combines both qualitative and quantitive methods to conceptualise and analyse Menindee Lakes as a social-ecological system to better understand long-term water governance for the Lakes.
The Gayini wetland is part of the Lowbidgee floodplain, the largest remaining area of wetlands in the Murrumbidgee Valley, with Yanga National Park, within the southern Murray-Darling Basin.
Australian governments spend millions of dollars to conserve aquatic biodiversity and fisheries threatened by water-resource development, but outcomes are poor when dams or weirs block fish migrations.