Several catchment-based water planning processes are currently underway in Australia, with the Water Reform Agreement of 1994 providing the legislative umbrella. This paper presents the results of a case study conducted in the joint catchment of the Diamantina and Georgina rivers, located in the remote central-west part of the state of Queensland. The paper investigates the new water planning processes from the perspective of the design principles for the robust institutions, while taking into account the specifics of the social and ecological environment they will need to operate in. The analysis uses both the actual plans as well as stakeholders' perceptions of the planning process. The analysis found that four of the design principles for robust institutions: clearly defined boundaries, collective choice arrangements, gradual sanctioning and nested enterprises; were well covered in the planning process. However, the principles of: equivalence between costs and benefits; conflict resolution mechanisms; recognition of right to organise; and monitoring; were not clearly or sufficiently addressed in the Plans and have resulted in significant concerns by stakeholders interviewed. The paper discusses the implications of the findings for other water planning processes located in remote and desert regions in general.

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