Decision-making in the Murray-Darling Basin

Daniel Connell

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Introduction The Murray–Darling Basin, particularly in the south, is in a parlous state. Why? Drought is part of the answer, but there is widespread consensus among water policy makers, managers, researchers, and the general public that human pressures in their many forms have also played a crucial role. This is despite nearly a century of management involving five governments – the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and more recently Queensland – which has frequently been described as ‘world's best practice’. What went wrong? That question can lead in many directions. In this chapter the focus is on just one of them: the failure to put in place a decision-making process at the top of the institutional pyramid that could, from a basin-wide perspective, make and enforce major decisions about core issues. Significantly, the need (and the risks involved in not creating that capacity) was recognised as a key issue in each of the three major phases of institutional design and reform: first during the early decades of the twentieth century, second in the 1980s, and now with the Commonwealth Water Act 2007 and the MD Basin Plan. The Murray–Darling Basin (MDB) is a large, complex region. It is just over a million square kilometres in size, has a diverse range of landscapes, ecosystems, land uses, and climates, includes over 30 000 wetlands, 11 of which are listed under the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands of International Importance, and produces approximately 40 percent of Australia's gross value of agriculture.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationWater Resources Planning and Management
    Editors R. Quentin Grafton and Karen Hussey
    Place of PublicationNew York, USA
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    ISBN (Print)9780521762588
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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