4 Inland water | 4 Effectiveness of inland water management
State of the Environment 2011 Committee. Australia state of the environment 2011.
Independent report to the Australian Government Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
Canberra: DSEWPaC, 2011.
At a glance
An understanding of the broad pressures on inland water ecosystems is good, and tends to be reflected in planning. Planning of water supply to take into account environmental needs and climate change is excellent for metropolitan areas, which increasingly are taking the approach of ‘water security through diversity’. Examples are emerging of significant local or regional improvements in environmental flows or water quality.
However, strong empirical science on the quantitative relationship between ecosystem response or health and flow regime is widely lacking, and this is hampering planning. Planning is incomplete for many water resource areas and uneven for water quality recovery. Significant investments are being made in recovering water for environmental flows, but the investment in improving water quality is relatively small relative to the size of the challenge.
Processes for planning and management generally fail to meet expectations for consultation to allow Indigenous input, as agreed under the National Water Initiative, and initial public reactions to the Guide to the proposed Basin Plan highlighted the need for additional consultation.
Australia is not alone in trying to meet the simultaneous challenges of protecting inland water environmental quality and providing water for human needs. Vörösmarty et al.58 assessed the stressors posing risks to water security and river biodiversity at a global scale. The higher rainfall areas of southern and eastern Australia, and the northern part of Australia, had high and low risks to biodiversity, respectively. However, Australia is the only continent without serious risks to water security, at least from the point of view of meeting essential human needs. In part, this is because we have the means to meet metropolitan water demand (even in a drying climate) through relatively expensive water supply technologies such as seawater desalination.