Lake Eyre Basin

Lake Eyre Basin

The vast Lake Eyre Basin comprises Kati Thanda, Munga-Thirri / Simpson Desert and Channel Country; it has a long past—make sure it has a living future.

At the heart of Australia, a complex system of waterways drain inland never reaching the sea. The result is an incredibly diverse landscape where deserts and vast wetlands support hundreds of species and millions of birds.

Thousands of pelicans and black cormorants gather as Kati-Thanda floods. Image: Geoff Spanner.

The Lake Eyre Basin encomapsses a the heart of Australia, comprising Munga-Thirri / Simpson Desert, Channel Country and Kati Thanda.

It represents one of the biggest inland draining water systems on the planet, and the only one in Australia to not release its water into the ocean. Covering 1.2 million square kilometres, it's six times the size of Victoria that straddles South Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and the western fringes of New South Wales.

For millions of years its complex system of waterways, lakes and underground aquifers has been sustaining an incredible diversity of environments that play host to remarkable biodiversity.

First Nations people have lived in this fluctuating landscape for tens of thousands of years. Seventy-one languages can be ascribed to the region and it's criss-crossed with songlines, trade routes, and language groups.

When rainfall saturates Channel Country in Queensland's south-west, filling rivers like the Diamantina and Georgina, it transforms an arid landscape into a network of lush waterways. Water flows down through the desert, enabling carpets of wildflowers to spring from the ochre sands of Munga-Thirri, where over 900 species of flora and fauna can be found.

Sometimes there is enough water to continue the journey south until it floods the lowest point in Australia at 15 metres below sea level, what the Arabana people call Kati Thanda (Lake Eyre). When Kati Thanda floods it turns bare, red and white desert into lush wetland, becoming a home for millions of birds.

A world under threat

The Lake Eyre Basin is a vast system of water, people, flora and fauna that has been working in harmony for millennia, and yet the relatively recent scourge of fossil fuel exploration and extraction threatens all of that.

Drilling for oil and gas risks disrupting the fragile network of waterways that feed wetlands and waterholes throughout the Basin. Desert ecosystems that depend on groundwater aquifers could be wiped out if these water systems are disrupted or polluted if the destructive process of fracking for fossil gas is allowed.

Lake Eyre floods turning the landscape green. Image: Matthew Turner.

The Wilderness Society is working in both Channel Country and Munga-Thirri / Simpson Desert to oppose new fossil fuel exploration in these sensitive environments. Amazingly, even though Munga-Thirri was recently declared a national park, mining exploration licences still exist within its borders. And in Channel Country, Santos and Origin Energy have been granted petroleum leases (ie the production of gas, oil and petrol, including harmful fracking).

    The Lake Eyre Basin must be protected and respected. Below, find out how the Wilderness Society is tackling the threat of fossil fuels in the heart of Australia.

      Munga-Thirri / Simpson Desert

      Munga-Thirri / Simpson Desert

      Thanks to your support, together we've helped deliver the biggest national park in Australia in the Munga-Thirri / Simpson Desert, protecting 3.6 million hectares of undamaged desert ecosystems. However, even now, the threat of fossil fuels remains.

      Channel Country

      Channel Country

      The free-flowing rivers of Channel Country in the south-west corner of Queensland replenish the Simpson Desert and Kati Thanda to the south. The prospect of fracking these delicate rivers and floodplains poses a terrible risk to the overland flows—the lifeblood that feeds the heartlands of Australia.