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Flood Country

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Flood Country

An Environmental History of the Murray-Darling Basin

Emily O'Gorman   University of Wollongong

Colour photographs, Illustrations
280 pages, 245 x 170 mm
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing

    Paperback - 2012
ISBN: 9780643101586 - AU $ 49.95

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Floods in the Murray-Darling Basin are crucial sources of water for people, animals and plants in this often dry region of inland eastern Australia. Even so, floods have often been experienced as natural disasters, which have led to major engineering schemes. Flood Country explores the contested and complex history of this region, examining the different ways in which floods have been understood and managed and some of the long-term consequences for people, rivers and ecologies.

The book examines many tensions, ranging from early exchanges between Aboriginal people and settlers about the dangers of floods, through to long running disputes between graziers and irrigators over damming floodwater, and conflicts between residents and colonial governments over whose responsibility it was to protect townships from floods.

Flood Country brings the Murray-Darling Basin's flood history into conversation with contemporary national debates about climate change and competing access to water for livelihoods, industries and ecosystems. It provides an important new historical perspective on this significant region of Australia, exploring how people, rivers and floods have re-made each other.


  • Written in a narrative style
  • Examines floods in an environmental and historical context from 1850 to the present
  • Explores the importance of local knowledge
  • Considers the effects of floods in the development of water management policy, dam building and irrigation
  • Brings the Murray-Darling Basin’s flood history into conversation with very contemporary national debates about climate change and competing access to water

Abbreviations and terminology
CHAPTER 1 Gundagai 1852: the town that moved
CHAPTER 2 Experimentation and regulation: pastoralism and mining, 1850 to 1890
CHAPTER 3 Bourke 1890: the birth of engineering
Colour plates
CHAPTER 4 Federation, engineering, and a 'watershed' perspective, 1890 to 1956
CHAPTER 5 Mildura and the Murray River 1956: the failure of engineering
CHAPTER 6 Challenging national development: dams and irrigation, 1956 to 1990
CHAPTER 7 Cunnamulla 1990: the town that did not flood

 Academics and university students of environmental history, hydrology and environmental management
Professional environmental consultants
Town planners and land managers
Regulators and policy makers in local, state and Federal Government agencies

 "...the author engages the reader with elegant writing and a well-explained structure. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and look forward to the author writing 'Drought Country: An environmental history of the Murray-Darling Basin' as an essential companion to this publication."
Anna Lukasiewicz, Rural Society Journal, June 2013

"Her scholarly analysis of ‘what is’ and ‘what was’ provides an insightful account of the issues in play."
Arthur Lucas, Australian Studies


 Emily O'Gorman is an Associate Research Fellow in the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research at the University of Wollongong, Australia. 

Related Titles
 Big, Bold and Blue    Double Helix Issue 08    Vegetation of Australian Riverine Landscapes    Australian Alps    Reef Fishes    Irrigation: Scheduling    Artful Rainwater Design  


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