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Monitoring and evaluation for the use of Commonwealth environmental water

Monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement are critical components of natural resource management programs, particularly in highly variable natural systems where the outcomes from environmental watering actions can be uncertain. Monitoring and reporting activities support the efficient and effective use of resources, promote accountability, support adaptive management and help build knowledge.

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Monitoring and evaluation activities are guided by:

Long term intervention monitoring

Monitoring of environmental outcomes is currently being strengthened by transitioning from short-term to longer term projects as part of the CEWO’s $30 million Long Term Intervention Monitoring Project. This project will monitor and evaluate the contribution of Commonwealth environmental water delivery in the Murray-Darling Basin over the next 5 years to June 2019.

The Long Term Intervention Monitoring Project is a key part of the CEWO’s response to the requirements of the Water Act 2007 and Murray-Darling Basin Plan. It focuses on understanding the contribution of Commonwealth environmental water to the environmental objectives of the Basin Plan, while assisting the CEWO to demonstrate environmental outcomes and adaptively manage water holdings.

Under this approach we will monitor in seven key areas in catchments where around 90 per cent of Commonwealth environmental water is held, including the:

Working with others

Consistent with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder’s commitment to community engagement, long-term monitoring has been developed in consultation with, and involves, local land and water managers. We will be working on improving mechanisms to share information from monitoring with environmental water managers and the community. Localised teams made up of a range of experts including scientists from some of Australia’s leading regional universities and research institutions will undertake each of the seven projects.

This collaborative effort is part of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder’s commitment to facilitating the sharing of knowledge and expertise amongst the many people across the Basin who are contributing to, or have an interest in, environmental water.

The time, expertise and advice provided by our delivery partners, other environmental water holders, members of the scientific community, regional water management advisory groups and the many landowners who work with us to plan, manage and monitor the use of environmental water in the Murray-Darling Basin is essential to the success of the program.

Monitoring projects are not our only source of information about the results being achieved. Local communities are reporting on the benefits they are observing from the use of environmental water in their area. To further build this connection with communities, six local engagement officers have been recruited in Berri (South Australia), Mildura (Victoria), Deniliquin, Leeton, Dubbo (New South Wales) and Goondiwindi (Queensland).

Monitoring and evaluation under the Basin Plan

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder is not the only investor in monitoring of environmental outcomes, however it is one of the largest investors. The CEWO has designed its monitoring program to complement existing and proposed monitoring programs.

The Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), Basin State Governments and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder all play a role in the reporting on environmental outcomes, consistent with the Basin Plan.

Overall basin plan outcomes - Ecological response timeframe over 5 years

The MDBA is responsible for reporting on achievements against the environmental objectives of the Basin Plan at a basin-scale, which are broadly focussed on flows and water quality, fish, vegetation and birds across the whole of the Basin.

State Governments are responsible for reporting on achievements against the environmental objectives of the Basin Plan at an asset-scale i.e. rivers, wetlands, floodplains.

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder is responsible for reporting on the contribution of Commonwealth environmental water to the environmental objectives of the Basin Plan (at the local and Basin scales).

Targeted short term intervention monitoring

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) has been monitoring and evaluating the short-term (1 year) environmental response of selected watering actions since 2011.

Results from short-term monitoring and evaluation projects are available at Outcomes.

Monitoring and evaluation results

While the full results of our activities will take years to emerge, monitoring is providing good evidence that environmental water is providing a broad range of ecological benefits, including improved water quality through reduced salinity and dilution of blackwater events, increased fish numbers and improved health of wetlands and vegetation. It is also contributing to the reproduction and recruitment of native fish and providing habitat and food sources in a number of locations throughout the Murray-Darling Basin.

Any enquiries relating to the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office’s monitoring and evaluation program should be sent to:

Assessment Tools

Aquatic ecosystems toolkit

The Aquatic Ecosystems Toolkit is a nationally agreed framework that provides a set of good practice tools for mapping, classifying and assessing the condition of aquatic ecosystems, and provides guidance to identify high ecological value aquatic ecosystems (HEVAE).

The Toolkit has been developed to complement existing assessment tools and is flexible in its application. The toolkit includes five modules:

  • Module 1 – Aquatic Ecosystem Toolkit Guidance Paper
  • Module 2 – Interim Australian National Aquatic Ecosystem (ANAE) Classification
  • Module 3 – Guidelines for Identifying High Ecological Value Aquatic Ecosystems (HEVAE)
  • Module 4 – Aquatic Ecosystem Delineation and Description Guidelines
  • Module 5 – Integrated Ecosystem Condition Assessment Framework (IECA) – currently under development.