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Water and its management has become one of the key environmental issues in Australia. Many of our arid zone rivers, particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin are severely affected by overextraction, impacting on floodplains and their biodiversity. The interaction between policy and science is critical to the development of long-term initiatives for the sustainability of rivers and their dependent wetlands and biota. The power and influence of policy functions of conservation bureaucracies is contrasted with the importance of scientific information but relative ineffectiveness of science. I examine interactions and their effectiveness by focusing on case studies where major policy shifts have occurred in favour of conservation on arid zone river systems. Science and the media have played a prominent role, along with useful alliances. For scientists, there are major challenges besides doing the research to be effective. Engagement in the policy and public discussion, sometimes using the media, is important.

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