Environmental flows research provides beneficial outcomes for the environment, water managers and the community

    Impact: Environmental Impact, Public policy Impact, Cultural Impact

    Impact summary

    Water managers must balance the demands of industry and communities against an obligation to maintain the environmental and cultural values of rivers and floodplains. To inform this balance and achieve practical on-ground solutions to complex environmental problems (e.g. declining water quality and loss of aquatic animals), Charles Sturt University researchers successfully embedded a unique community engagement component in research and monitoring programs that inform national and state water policy decisions.

    The Long-Term Intervention Monitoring program (LTIM; 2014-2019) and the Monitoring, Evaluation and Research program (MER; 2019-2022) are the primary means by which the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) monitors and evaluates ecological outcomes of environmental watering. Charles Sturt’s environmental research program are contracted (with partners) to undertake monitoring, evaluation and research in two of seven areas where the LTIM/MER program is delivered in the Murray-Darling Basin. Charles Sturt’s community-engaged water research has been conducted since 2002. However, the CEWO was established in 2008, with Charles Sturt first partnering and receiving funding from this organisation in 2010.

    Charles Sturt developed innovative ways to incorporate community engagement into the monitoring and evaluation programs, and provide leadership in engagement within the LTIM/MER programs. Led by Professor Robyn Watts and Associate Professor Skye Wassens, the research program purposefully engages government management agencies, landholders, Indigenous and non-Indigenous community groups to share knowledge and provide evidence-based scientific advice on the best use of environmental water. These groups were recruited based on their ability to inform the program, plus their willingness to disseminate findings and make changes within their own networks. The integration of academia, government, industry and community to manage Australia’s water resources is a novel approach that delivers multiple social, economic, cultural and environmental benefits.

    Charles Sturt’s environmental flows research has improved the way that water managers, industry and communities plan and deliver environmental water. The research generated new knowledge to underpin environmental water management interventions. These interventions were undertaken by State and Commonwealth governments and aimed to maintain and improve water quality, ecosystem processes, aquatic vegetation, and fish, frog and water bird populations.
    Impact date20022020
    Category of impactEnvironmental Impact, Public policy Impact, Cultural Impact
    Impact levelBenefit


    • water management
    • environmental water
    • community engagement
    • commonwealth environmental water office

    Countries where impact occurred

    • Australia