Managing water resources

Water in the Alinytjara Wilurara (AW) region is scarce and precious. The management and conservation of water sources is a very high priority for the Aboriginal people in the region for personal, cultural and biodiversity reasons.

Permits for water affecting activities

To assist in the sustainable management of water in the AW region, permits are required for certain water affecting activities. Under Section 127 (2) of the Natural Resources Management (NRM) Act 2004, conditions can be placed around the taking of water from non-prescribed water resources. Permits may be required for a range of activities, including the sites of wells, management of watercourses or the capture of surface water. For more information, refer to the AW NRM Plan.

Managing water sustainably

Water has been recognised as the biggest issue on the lands in all discussions with the communities in the region, including during the development of the AW NRM Plan. In response, the AW NRM Board has developed an amendment to the AW NRM Plan that focuses on the sustainable management of water in the region.

The key objectives of this plan are that:

  • water sources that support important cultural features and activities in the landscape are protected
  • water supplies for townships and homelands are protected
  • an equitable balance is achieved between environmental, social and economic needs for water
  • the rate of the taking and use of the water is sustainable (or acceptable in the case of non-recharged aquifers)
  • water quality is protected
  • there is no loss of rights for existing users
  • water is shared fairly between users.

The planning approach to water in the region will be influential for water planning in other regions of South Australia.  

Aboriginal participation in water planning

Central to the development water planning is consultation and agreement from the people who live in the region. Water in traditional Aboriginal society was vital for survival. Many water features in the landscape (permanent or ephemeral) have significant cultural significance and there are Aboriginal laws, protocols and understanding related to their use. Damage to or loss of cultural assets can cause a sense of loss to Aboriginal people, and they are protected through an Agreement under the National Water Initiative.

The principles and processes that will be adopted as part of the AW water planning will ensure participation by Aboriginal people in the region. These principles are:

  • Informed Consent: Aboriginal people are the traditional owners of the land in this region. Their authority for self-determination is enshrined in numerous Acts of Parliament.
  • Authority: The personal authority to make decisions within the AW NRM region is multi-layered and complex. The AW NRM Board and the relevant land management council are to be formally informed about any proposals relating to groundwater management (including research and monitoring) early in the development stage. If a large change in the management (ie, new rules for use, a major development) is proposed, an open public meeting will be held. Traditional owners and elders who have authority over the land surface where works are required will need to be consulted with to seek permission to access the land.
  • Permissions: Appropriate permissions must be sought to travel within the AW NRM region and to take any samples.