Environmental flow assessments (e-flows) are widely used within water allocation planning to address the threat to rivers and human communities posed by water extraction. However, conceptual models underpinning e-flows tend to include only biophysical interactions, eschewing socio-cultural complexity, local knowledge, and governance arrangements. These are critical where Indigenous people have strong connections with rivers and knowledge to contribute to planning. We used a transdisciplinary approach to develop a model of ecological values and a wider set of values held by Indigenous peoples in north-western Australia. Our model demonstrates the importance of hydrological connectivity for maintaining hydro-ecological values and Indigenous use for food and amenity and meeting religious responsibilities. We identified the need to recognize Indigenous and non-Indigenous governance and management systems at multiple scales to build legitimacy in e-flows and water planning. We propose guiding principles for using e-flows to protect aquatic ecosystems and their dependent human cultures and livelihoods.
Douglas, M., Jackson, S. E., Canham, C., Laborde, S., Beesley, L., Kennard, M. J., ... Setterfield, S. (2019). Conceptualising hydro-socio-ecological relationships to enable more integrated and inclusive water allocation planning. One Earth, 1(3), 361-373. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oneear.2019.10.021