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The Politics of River Basin Organisations

The Politics of River Basin Organisations

Coalitions, Institutional Design Choices and Consequences

Edited by Dave Huitema and Sander Meijerink

Can River Basin Organisations (RBOs) actually improve water governance? RBOs are frequently layered on top of existing governmental organisations, which are often reluctant to share their power. This, in turn, can affect their performance. The Politics of River Basin Organisations addresses this issue by exploring the subject on a global level.

Chapter 13: The evolution of river basin management in the Murray–Darling Basin

Andrew Ross and Daniel Connell

Subjects: environment, environmental governance and regulation, environmental politics and policy, management natural resources, water, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy


The Murray–Darling Basin (MDB) occupies 1 043 000 km² in south-eastern Australia. The MDB has a population of 2.1 million people and supplies about 40 per cent of the gross value of Australian agricultural production. The MDB spans four Australian states (Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia) and the Australian Capital Territory. River basin organisation (RBO) in the MDB offers an example of federal multilevel governance (compare de Lo' and Morris, Chapter 3 in this volume). The Australian Government, state governments and corporations, catchment management organisations and local governments are involved in basin management together with water users and other interests. Under Australia’s federal system of government, the primary right to own or to control and use water is vested with the states and territories (Lucy 2008), and the states manage water allocation, planning and implementation. The Australian Government plays a major role in water policy development and financing. The MDB is widely considered to be a success story in river basin management (Kemper et al. 2005). The MDB institutions have been put forward as a model for other countries. In many respects the management of the MDB has been a success story, but in other respects it has been less successful and new challenges are continuing to emerge.

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