A paradigm shift in best-practice water management is required based on the lessons learned
from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, according to a new journal article just published.
The peer-reviewed paper published in the Australasian Journal of Water Resources calls for a
model of co-operation and collaboration with landholders to replace the polarising approach
that has characterised the Plan’s implementation to date.
“This year the Murray-Darling Basin Plan will celebrate its 10th birthday – a lot has been learnt
over that decade that should inform how things are done,” said the lead author and NSWIC
Policy Manager Christine Freak.
“There is significant opportunity in moving away from the often polarizing and divisive water
policy approaches, towards models of co-operation and collaboration.”
“The idea that agriculture and the environment have to be siloed and made mutually-exclusive
is rather old-school. We actually need both, so we need them integrated.”
The articled explores case studies demonstrating that not only are models of co-operation and
collaboration desirable and feasible, but are already happening on the ground.
“There are a number of great case studies in the Basin showing the complex reality that
conservation and biodiversity can co-exist with agriculture, which is at odds with the simplistic
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder is already well down this path, partnering
with irrigation infrastructure operators and landholders to deliver environmental water where
it needs to go.
“The partnerships with environmental water holders and irrigation communities are proving
very successful, particularly to water wetlands on private properties.”
The Basin is a mosaiced landscape, with irrigated farmland comprising a significant amount of
the landscape. Irrigation Infrastructure Operators in the NSW Southern Basin alone cover over
1.7 million ha with more than 6000km of water delivery channels.
“If we can change the thinking, to look at how we can best work with the irrigation community
to achieve environmental outcomes, alongside production, we will all achieve a lot more,” said
“It’s better policy than continuing the water wars pitting stakeholders against each other.”
“While many positive outcomes have been achieved with the 27% of irrigation water now
transferred to the environment, the next step needs to be optimising its use by working with
landholders to water wetlands and improve biodiversity across both public and private land.”
“With climate change making natural inundation of these wetlands less frequent, using existing
infrastructure to get water to these sites will be increasingly important.”
“The key will be genuinely working with people. Working together offers our best hope of moving
The full article can be viewed online [HERE].
Contact us for any access issues.