At a glance
The National Water Initiative has driven water policy, planning and management reforms in Australia for the past decade, which have delivered significant benefits for all Australians. It is critical that there should be no backsliding from reform principles. During a similar or longer period, river research and management communities in Australia have moved more towards integrated and ‘ecosystem-based’ considerations.
Indigenous management of water resources has re-emerged, and Indigenous knowledge of water management is gaining increased recognition for the values that it can add to better inform decisions. Indigenous perspectives on water markets also offer insight into ongoing water resource management.
The Murray–Darling Basin Plan was finalised in late 2012. Some elements of the Basin Plan that have been implemented are producing and encouraging efficient water use, and positive economic, social and environmental outcomes. However, other elements and associated implementation are having negative impacts on economies and communities in the Basin.
The Great Barrier Reef 2013–14 report card reported mostly poor to very poor progress towards 2018 catchment targets for factors directly affecting catchment run-off. Across central and northern regions, a review of the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative found that it had produced many significant achievements, including some evidence that it is helping to achieve commitments from the National Water Initiative.
Aspects of the effectiveness of inland water management were assessed across each of the 4 key pressures— development, land and water management, climate and pests. Generally, understanding of the context of management and planning was rated as being at a higher level than inputs, processes and outcomes; inputs were the lowest ranked, with either stable or deteriorating trends.
Australia’s water management and policy framework, and use of market approaches to move water to higher-value use, is well recognised internationally. As an example, severe drought conditions in California, United States, during the past 4 years have prompted multiple bilateral interactions between the United States and Australia, which are examining Australia’s water resources activities following the millennium drought for potential adoption. During the past decade, the National Water Initiative has driven reforms in Australia that have delivered significant benefits for all Australians, in the context of pressures such as climate change and water resource development, as well as with regard to water management effectiveness. Under this initiative, the efforts of the Bureau of Meteorology—working closely with states and territories to collect, collate, analyse and report on our water resources—have also provided some of the core information required when assessing the effectiveness of inland water management at regional, state and national levels.