Most efforts to restore environmental flows to the Murray River assume that it means resolving a dilemma between two competing needs: those of the environment and those of agriculturalists. This paper provides evidence to show amenity is also important, it is not being adequately considered, and that this, in turn, is impeding efforts to restore environmental flows.
The paper contains a literature review of a number of studies which, when combined, show that the importance of amenity (tourism, recreation and lifestyle) is of similar scale (has significant economic value and community support) to productive values. Three case studies show that community concerns about loss of amenity values have impeded restoration programs despite evidence that existing practices are causing environmental damage. The debate about water use in the Murray is clearly not simply one between environment and production but also one involving lifestyles. The challenge is to better understand the nature and scale of amenity and its relationship to other natural resource management issues.