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Managing cumulative impacts: groundwater reform in the Murray-Darling basin, Australia


Nevill, JN, Managing cumulative impacts: groundwater reform in the Murray-Darling basin, Australia, Water Resources Management, 23, (13) pp. 2605-2631. ISSN 0920-4741 (2009) [Refereed Article]

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DOI: doi:10.1007/s11269-009-9399-0


The cumulative impacts of incremental development present governments all over the world with major difficulties. Well-intended strategic approaches often fail, in whole or in part. In Australia, a joint Federal/State agreement in 1992 initiated reforms of State environmental legislation and policy, which led to the Council of Australian Governments Water Reform Framework 1994—an agreement to introduce comprehensive water reforms targeted at both financial and environmental issues. The Murray-Darling Basin, Australia’s largest catchment, overlaps four States plus the small Australian Capital Territory. In 1995 pressing problems of land and water degradation, and the decline of widespread and important environmental values in the Basin, led only to a cap (an administrative limit or ceiling) on river water extraction, even though the importance of the surface water/groundwater connection was evident. Moreover, State Governments have been extremely slow to implement core groundwater reforms added to the Framework in 1996—with some important elements not yet implemented after 12 years. This delay, combined with the failure of States to implement commitments to the precautionary management of natural resources, has magnified the environmental and economic crisis facing the Basin. This crisis appears likely to worsen if current climate change predictions eventuate. Recent initiatives by the Australian Government acknowledge past procrastination, and provide a new administrative framework—an approach will only work if backed by political intelligence and will-power, and good-will and cooperation amongst State premiers. These factors have been absent in the past. The paper concludes with key recommendations aimed at comprehensive and integrated management of the cumulative impacts of incremental water-related development on a catchment-by-catchment basis

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Groundwater dependent ecosystems - Groundwater overdraft - Conjunctive management - Water policy - Governance - Freshwater - Precautionary principle
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Policy and administration
Research Field:Environment policy
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Other environmental management
Objective Field:Other environmental management not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Nevill, JN (Mr Jon Nevill)
ID Code:61163
Year Published:2009
Web of Science® Times Cited:32
Deposited By:Government
Deposited On:2010-02-26
Last Modified:2012-12-12
Downloads:2 View Download Statistics

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