Beguiling and risky: 'environmental works and measures' for wetland conservation under a changing climate

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In Australia's Murray-Darling Basin, small-scale engineering works called 'environmental works and measures' have been implemented as a basis for river and other wetland conservation. While implementing these, governments seem to have embraced the beguiling notion that scarce water supplies can be divided further, while conserving the environment and maintaining agricultural production. The difficulties in doing this are expected to increase in the face of extreme climate variability. With this scenario as a backdrop, the $280 million (Monetary values ($) in this paper are in Australian dollars (AUD). At the time of writing AUD $1.00 = ~USD $1.02.) Living Murray and related programmes are assessed to see whether microengineering works to manage the hydrology of wetlands make for effective adaptation to water scarcity and climate change or whether it amounts to an overly narrow adaptation or maladaptation. Some measures were found to be substantially beneficial, such as the construction of fishways. However, under these programmes, only 0.6% of the Basin's wetlands would be inundated and there are significant risks including desiccation of non-target wetlands and further reductions in water allocations for the environment. It is recommended that trade-offs between alternative strategies are assessed as the basis for minimising perverse impacts under changing climatic and hydrological conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-131
Number of pages21
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2013

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