The State of the environment report: Western Australia 2007 noted that 33 actions were identified for inland waters in response to the 1998 report. Of these, 18 were incomplete, 12 were complete but had not been evaluated, and only three were both complete and evaluated. Progress with, and evaluation of, actions were complicated by a gradual decline in monitoring, reduced funding for rehabilitation projects, and other perceived priorities for water resource management agencies. Improved monitoring and evaluation of inland waters is urgently required.
The New South Wales state of the catchments reports for 2010 assessed the capacity of natural resource managers to contribute to regionally relevant natural resource management for each of the state’s major catchments. Most assessments showed room for improvement in effectiveness.
The Victorian Catchment condition report 200718 roughly estimated an investment of $305 million in natural resource management projects over the previous five years. However, condition and impact analysis indicated that investment in responses is not keeping pace with the scale of degradation occurring across the state. The framework set out in Securing Our Water Future Together (the Victorian Government’s 2004 white paper), which has been further developed though regional sustainable water strategies, emphasises water-use efficiencies and legal recognition of the amount of water set aside to provide environmental benefits to water-dependent ecosystems.
Where river or groundwater systems are overcommitted with respect to environmental requirements, programs such as the Murray–Darling Basin Plan and Water for the Future are intended to restore the balance between consumptive use and environmental health. The Australian Government purchased 426 gigalitres of water entitlements for additional water for the environment in 2008–09, and an additional 415 gigalitres in 2009–10.68 This was part of the $3.1-billion commitment over 10 years to buy water in the Murray–Darling Basin for environmental purposes. A significantly larger volume of water was allocated against these entitlements in 2009–10 than in 2008–09, increasing the opportunity for environmental watering; 154 gigalitres was delivered to wetlands and floodplains in the Murray, Murrumbidgee and Macquarie catchments; the Lowbidgee Floodplain and Lake Albert; the Warrego, Moonie, Darling and Ovens rivers; and Nebine Creek. Some recovery of vegetation as a result of these flows has already been observed.69
In assessing the effectiveness of management, it is also useful to look at how management is dealing with the identified pressures on the inland water environment.