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Lake Eyre Basin: the draft State of the Basin Condition Assessment report

Aug 27, 2017
Author: Goyder Institute


The Lake Eyre Basin (LEB) is the largest river basin in Australia covering around 1.2 million km2 in the arid region or 15% of the Australian landmass. The mean annual rainfall and runoff is the lowest of any major river basin in the world but periodic large and widespread flooding results in broad scale inundation of wetland habitats. This inundation drives some of the largest and most persistent wetlands in the country with slow moving floodwaters spreading across a low gradient catchment with extremely high floodplain to catchment area ratio. 

Increasing concern about the protection of the LEB water resources and aquatic ecosystems led to the formation of the LEB Ministerial Forum under the LEB Intergovernmental Agreement. The LEB Rivers Assessment (LEBRA) was established in 2011 to gain an understanding of the condition of the aquatic systems of the LEB. The LEBRA is central to the Ministerial Forum and aims to monitor and assess the environmental condition of the Basin’s waterways. 

Under the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement Act (2001), the Ministerial Forum must cause a review of the condition of all watercourses and catchments within the Lake Eyre Basin Agreement Area.

The draft State of the Basin Condition Assessment 2016 report provides a picture on the current status of the hydrology, water quality, and fish and water birds populations of the Lake Eyre Basin and on the current and emerging threats to the Basin. It reveals an internationally significant river basin in good condition, which is a rarity around the globe. An initial State of the Basin report was produced in 2008 and this is now the second report.

The draft State of the Basin Condition Assessment 2016 â€‹report was developed in consultation with Australian, State and Territory governments, research institutions, the Lake Eyre Basin Community Advisory Committee and the Lake Eyre Basin Scientific Advisory Panel. Information has been sourced from monitoring activities collected under the Lake Eyre Basin Rivers Assessment programme government agencies, natural resource management boards and other research available.

The Goyder Institute for Water Research led two key research projects that significantly contributed to the latest condition assessment report.

  • Research to develop a fish condition index was adopted in the production of the Lake Eyre Basin State of the Basin report (Schmarr et.al. 2015) Evidence Based Approaches to Condition Assessment of Fish Communities in the Lake Eyre Basin, Central Australia, and;
  • Research assessing the values and indicators for water systems held by the Arabana people who live in the Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre region (Nursey-Bray M. and the Arabana Aboriginal Corporation 2015) The Arabana people, water and developing cultural indicators for country

These projects have provided research to underpin a world-class approach and methodology for undertaking condition assessment that is based on well-defined and researched indicators and threshold values consistent with the Strategic Adaptive Management (SAM) approach endorsed by the LEB Ministerial Forum.

The projects provided a platform for delivering targeted and highly-applied research to progress the application of natural resource management evaluation in the LEB and provide a significant boost to the management and protection of a highly significant and vulnerable desert drainage system that is recognised on a global scale.

The consultation process for the draft report was held from 22 May 2017 to 30 June 2017. Feedback from the consultation process will be considered in the finalisation of the report. The final report is due to be completed in 2017 for Minister’s consideration.