The FOWTOR Model - don't laugh, I'm serious!

It sounds a bit abstract and bureaucratic but the FOWTOR model is a serious concept, and its benefits are enormous!

The FOWTOR (Flow Of Water Top OF Ridge) Model (© Steve Irons, 2007) is what has been used to draw the map of Australia on the front page of

Here's a few notes on the FOWTOR Model:


If you are standing in a hamlet, a town or a city of Australia, you will be on the slopes or in the valley of a major river system. It is that river system that, over the last million years or so, has determined what the landscape you are looking at looks like, and what the land around you is capable of producing, and other matters such as how many people are living there, and what they can and cannot do with their lives, and so on. Even in the major desert that is at the centre of Australia, where rain rarely falls, this simple observation is valid. So it is possible to divide Australia on the basis of where water, when it drops from the sky, will flow in its (sometimes quite short, sometimes very long) journey towards the sea.


The FOWTOR Model goes to a major river system and draws a boundary around it based on the 'flow of water' (FOW). All boundaries therefore must be at the 'top of the ridge' (TOR). Water falling from the sky will be in one major river system if it falls on one side of the ridge, and in another if it falls on the other side of the ridge.


This means that there is no possibility of a mix-up or overlap or inconsistency or double dipping or political niceties; it's not up for renegotiation as new concepts hit the brain in a storm; it is just a matter for a geographical map to determine. It's not for the pollies to decide, but it is a scientific fact that needs to be determined.


And, of course, the topographic maps to determine this boundary are available now, and they cover the whole of Australia. The maps exist. All we have to do is get the geographers into a room, give them access to the Internet, and tell them to come out when the job is done. And the beauty of this is, once they have done their work, it will never have to be done again. It's not like the determination of an electoral boundary, for example, which needs modification over time based on population migration; that ridge is still going to be there, a 100,000 years from now!


So, we have adopted the FOWTOR Model, not because we are overwhelmed by the shortage of water in Australia, even though that is a real problem that needs to be addressed, but because it provides us with a way of dividing up Australia in a real way, that will always make sense, and will not be subject to change because of political whim or new centres of power and influence.

If you ever need to divide up Australia, and you like these secondary objectives, and they fit in with your primary objectives, you can use the FOWTOR Model, or even better use the map on the front page of .


What a fantastic experience just to discover this map. Few would be able to talk about the watershed boundaries of their environment but this makes it all so easy.
The possibilities are moot but exciting nonetheless

The boundaries based on the top of the ridge have been drawn over the map for describing Aboriginal Australia, commonly called the Indigenous Map or the Horton Map on each of the state explanations.

The ABC have set up this map with tools for exploration .

The editor of this map David Horton is well-known for his views. I have included his ideas @ /key-australian-persons-abolish-states#comment-29797

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.