Most of the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin can be considered 'working rivers'. While the flows in some rivers, like the Paroo, remain mostly natural, for the majority of rivers, water is captured, extracted or diverted to support communities, agriculture and other industries. Communities also value healthy and functioning river and floodplain ecosystems, which provide many important services. These include clean water for drinking and agricultural use, nutrient cycling between the river and floodplain, fish stock for anglers, and an environment that supports tourism, recreation and cultural values.
To achieve these multiple benefits, there needs to be a balance between the water available to the environment and the water that is used by communities and industries. This is what the concept of a 'healthy working river' is all about. It is an idea that can be extended to groundwater aquifers, which need to be used in such a way that groundwater-dependent ecosystems are healthy, contributions from aquifers to river flows are maintained and the quantity and quality of groundwater is maintained and suitable for use.