An assessment of the ecological impacts of inter-basin water transfers, and their threats to river basin integrity and conservation



1. Detailed research into the ecological impacts of inter-basin water transfers (IBTs) is virtually nonexistent on a global scale. However, a growing awareness of the serious nature of such impacts—for example, the loss of biogeographical integrity, the loss of endemic biotas, the frequent introduction of alien and often invasive aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals, the genetic intermixing of once separated populations, the implications for water quality, the frequently drastic alteration of hydrological regimes, the implications for marine and estuarine processes, climatic effects, and the spread of disease vectors, amongst many others—demands a most urgent and world-wide appraisal of all current planning and research strategies.

2. This paper first defines the types of extant IBTs, and details some case studies for three widely separated regions of the world, namely: south-eastern Australia, southern Africa, and the central and south-western parts of the United States of America. In doing so, it highlights the chronic paucity of ecological data on their impacts, while simultaneously emphasising their extreme complexities.

3. Finally, we call for an international meeting on such schemes, as a matter of priority and extreme urgency, in order to assess the extent of IBTs, their geographical distribution, and their ecological and sociological impacts and implications.