The Australian Water Project: volume 1

Crisis and opportunity: Lessons of Australian water reform discussion paper was produced to drive debate around water reform to ensure we learn from the mistakes of the devastating drought from 1996 to 2009.

  Water 2011 Vol 1

In 2010, the formation of the Australian Water Project (AWP) was announced. The AWP is a joint project by CEDA, Harvard University and UniWater (a venture between the University of Melbourne and Monash University). The project will conduct independent analyses into Australia's water shortages and policy solutions. Crisis and Opportunity: Lessons of Australian Water Reform is the first discussion paper (volume 1) from the Australian Water Resources Project.

Crisis and Opportunity: Lessons of Australian Water aims to drive debate around water reform to ensure we learn from the mistakes of the devastating drought from 1996 to 2009.

Volume I draws together 14 contributions from experts to look at different aspects of Australian water reform including environmental, economic, agricultural and technological water management issues.

The release of the publication will be followed by a series of public workshops across Australia in March 2012. These workshops will help identify and inform a series of priorities and recommendations for future reform to be included in volume II, to be released mid next year.

Volume I reviews key points including:

  • What has been successful in water reform, such as creating markets for water entitlements where water and land property rights were separated;
  • Where reforms did not go far enough or were not fully implemented, such as cost-reflective pricing for water and resolving over-allocation to irrigators. These issues worsened the severity of the recent drought and must be resolved to build robustness in Australia's water management; and
  • Which responses to the drought deviated from the successes of past processes, such as the Water Act 2007, which failed to consult regional communities and scientists to achieve a balance in water allocations, and how our urban planning mechanisms lacked resilience, with no water supplies that were uncorrelated with rainfall.

CEDA Chief Executive Professor the Hon. Stephen Martin said: "CEDA has chosen to examine water reform because few issues are as fundamental to maintaining a robust economy than access to clean, fresh water."

"While Australia is a world leader in water reform and came through the drought relatively well given its severity and duration, we need to examine how water managers and markets withstood the environmental challenge and how we can do things better in the future," he said.

View the report

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The Australian Water Project is supported by CEDA member