Water Policy Reform

Water Policy Reform

Lessons in Sustainability from the Murray–Darling Basin

Edited by John Quiggin, Thilak Mallawaarachchi and Sarah Chambers

Agriculture in the Murray–Darling Basin of Australia represents a controversial ‘policy experiment’ comprising large capital investments, innovation and enterprise across a hundred-year period. This book, which contains contributions from some of Australia’s foremost economic, social science and public policy researchers and writers, examines the evolution of public policy frameworks that transformed water management from initial exploitation for irrigation as a dominant single use to a dynamic multiple use resource system.

Chapter 7: Chewing on the CEWH: Options for Improving Management of Environmental Water in the Murray–Darling Basin

Mike Young

Subjects: development studies, development studies, environment, environmental geography, management natural resources, water


Mike Young INTRODUCTION In essence, there is a continuum of institutional approaches to the management of regulated river systems. At one end of the continuum, one finds the conventional planning approach where rules are used to determine how much water is allocated to each purpose. The plan used to express these rules is highly prescriptive. Water trading is not allowed and every change to or deviation from the plan has to be approved by a central authority such as a Minister. Halfway along the continuum, one can find plans that allow trading among licensed users and a strict cap on the issue of more entitlements. The next step is to unbundle the licensing system so that entitlements, allocations, capacity shares, use approvals, salinity issues, and so on can be managed separately (Young and McColl, 2002, 2005). At the other end of the continuum, one finds a pure entitlement approach where the environment is given a portfolio of entitlement specified in the same manner as other users’ entitlements are specified (Young, 2011; this volune: Chapter 2). When an entitlement approach is used, the water management plan is simpler, as there is no need for the plan to consider how environmental water is to be used. In these systems, care is made to differentiate between times when water is needed for conveyance purposes and to provide a minimum base flow, and times when the system is in flood. When the system is in flood, river managers try to minimise property damage while...

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