I am interested if anyone has done much work with small declining towns in rural Australia? Maybe there are similar areas in the US? My town is 8500 people, the municipality has 16000 in total. The nearest towns are 90000 and 100000 people and are a good 1/2 and 1 hour drive away. Other towns in between range from 20 to 2000 people. We are prt of the Murray-Darling Basin (14% of Australia's land mass) that has seen a 70% reduction of inflows in the past 12 years of drought. Irrigators use 97% of the available water. The scientific consensus is that the Basin needs an extra 4400 gigalitres each year to avoid ecological collapse, an increase of 2/3rds of its current 'evironmental flow'. A recent deregulation of water economics has lead to wealthy irrigators buying water from cash deficient family farms, renderring them unviable - you can't grow rice/pasture/cotton/milk in the desert without water. Areas outside the irrigating country are leaving their farms in droves, heading to supply towns that are struggling with urban design and community development issues. Many of these towns have populations of less than 2000, so have a limited rate base, and don't keep stragegic planners on their staff, let alone regional development expertise or people to offer sustainable urban design solutions. So my question is how can we approach this situation, and avert the further decline of rural towns, that may have had up to 6 generations of family associations, traditionally relied on farming income to maintain service industries? Lose agriculture and what new economies are possible?