Water resources in Australia: Deliberation on options for protection and management

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Policy for the protection of water resources requires a more holistic and integrated approach to transcend disciplinary boundaries, to overcome fragmented governance, and to create ownership of solutions through collaborative planning. In this Australian case study I summarise critical water quality characteristics (salinity, acidity, nitrogen, phosphorus, carbon, turbidity, micro-pollutants and pathogenic organisms) and management options in the context of the needs of stakeholders. Stakeholders are: dryland and irrigation farmers; urban and industrial users; and the aquatic environment. Management options are: changes in land use; interception methods (such as filtration by riparian vegetation, use of artificial wetlands, and evaporation ponds); reliance on technological water treatment methods; re-use; and trading. Clearly, the protection of water resources is a ‘wicked’ problem. Critical decision-making requires greater emphasis on inclusive agricultural, ecocentric and technological thinking that includes: an understanding of the water cycle; consideration of interaction between stressors and use of systems approaches; better methods to value the aquatic environment; assessment of land use impacts on water resources; use of incentives to change behavior; and community involvement to create sustainable futures through transformation and resilience practice. To their credit, Australians are working together to explore solutions and support is available. Some examples are provided.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-240
Number of pages13
JournalAustralasian Journal of Environmental Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


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