Water quality risks in the Murray-Darling basin

Sara G. Beavis, Vanessa N.L. Wong, Luke M. Mosley, Darren Baldwin, James O. Latimer, Patrick Lane, Aparna Lal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Management of water resources in the Murray-Darling Basin has historically focussed on water security and the allocation of water for users with competing needs. This focus was reflected in the seminal paper on multiple risks to shared water across the basin by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation 15 years ago. That paper captured key concerns that were at the forefront for decision-makers, managers and policy-makers who were, at that time, experiencing the early impacts of the Millennium Drought. Water quality, then, was secondary to the issues of water security. Across the following years, new water quality risks have emerged along with a more nuanced understanding of the complex interplay between climate, floodplain/catchment vegetation, hydrology, and water quality. Critically, this improved understanding applies to the systemic shocks of extreme events, such as the 2020 bushfires and hypoxic blackwater events, as well as the variability, duration and volumes of natural and regulated river flows. In this paper, we explore the key water quality issues that currently face the Basin, and reframe water quality as an integral rather than incidental component of the risks to shared water in the Basin, with the associated implications for policy development that this implies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAustralian Journal of Water Resources
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


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