Freshwater Biodiversity: protecting freshwater ecosystems in the face of infrastructure development:

Policy and programs currently in place in Australia for the protection of freshwater biodiversity are discussed, primarily within the context of the frameworks provided by key international, national and State strategies. By way of comparison, reference is made in passing to biodiversity programs in terrestrial and marine environments. The context of current freshwater biodiversity conservation programs, particularly in relation to infrastructure development programs, is outlined on a State-by-State basis. Future conservation policy and program options are discussed, with attention focused on options involving the creation of freshwater reserves for the protection of representative ecosystems, and the management of cumulative effects.

The paper identifies three important gaps in existing programs at Commonwealth and State levels: (a) a failure by State governments to develop comprehensive and effective programs to manage the cumulative effects of incremental infrastructure development, (b) the completion of comprehensive State-wide freshwater ecosystem inventories, and (c) programs to develop representative freshwater ecosystem reserves. The paper also advocates increased levels of strategic planning (through existing Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) mechanisms) focused on controlling cumulative effects, and incorporating biodiversity conservation. Two other key recommendations relate to (a) the extension of water management regimes, including environmental flow programs, to cover both surface flows and groundwater in a fully integrated fashion, and (b) the full incorporation of quality assurance principles into water management programs, especially with regard to compliance enforcement and auditing.