Legislating for Sustainable Basin Management: The Story of Australia`s Water Act 2007

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

The paper covers the history and current reform process in Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin that aims to rebalance water use from one dominated by irrigation for agriculture, where the environment bears most of the risk during a drought, to one in which the risk of drought is shared more equitably between irrigators and ecosystems. The reform was controversial, as it acquired private water rights that would be held to benefit the environment. Water to achieve this was acquired from current holders through either a voluntary purchase at market value, or infrastructure modernisation that was paid for by the Federal Government and the water savings were shared between local communities and the environment.

What was especially unusual in this process, was how the Federal Government shifted away from the popular approach of stakeholder engagement and public participation towards a more top down approach where strong leadership overruled ongoing stakeholder disagreements.

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