Emerging environmental water governance in Australia

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A key platform of water law and policy reform over recent decades in Australia has been achieving ecologically sustainable water allocation and management. To realize this policy goal in practice requires considerable changes to the way we have allocated and managed water resources in the past. It demands a fundamental institutional transition. This article presents the findings of an extensive evaluation of the developing law, policy and practice of environmental water allocation in Australia and makes recommendations for ongoing institutional change to better realize environmental reform goals. The article highlights the need to do more than merely graft the environment (as a new additional water user) onto governance frameworks which have developed to provide for consumptive water needs. A governance model for effective environmental water allocation is proposed, which argues for the re-orientation of legal frameworks with clear, substantive strategic direction and purpose for the allocation, protection and management of environmental water; for the targeted reform of legal instruments used to facilitate environmental water allocation to ensure they are well suited to achieving environmental outcomes; and for corresponding reform of the distribution of institutional responsibility, authority and capacity for water management to enable river systems to be managed for effective environmental water allocation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-72
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Water Law
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • water law

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