Overview

The work presented under this River Management Issue has been funded by the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), but has widespread applicability to the rest of Australia in terms of the approaches used and key findings.  We welcome any other work done by other agencies that would further supplement the material we have gathered here.  Please contact us and let us know of other resources we should add.

Effective risk assessment and management processes are widely accepted as good business practice.  The Water Act 2007 specifically requires the identification of risks to the condition, or continued availability, of the Basin water resources.  Climate change has been identified as having probably the greatest future impact on water availability in the Basin and other parts of Australia.  A number of real and potential risks to the quantity and quality of the Basin’s water resources have been identified.  The risks are complex and their impacts vary across the Basin.  The interactions between risks, their cumulative impacts and effectiveness of current actions need to be better understood.  Strategies for addressing or managing such risks will need to be developed, while new and emerging risks are also identified and assessed.

The Risk Assessment Section within MDBA’s Natural Resources Management Division has funded a suite of projects to investigate such risks.  These can be broadly clustered into:  (1) risks driven by climate change (eg: drought, bushfire, salinity dynamics); (2) risks relating to catchment processes (eg: forest hydrology, afforestation, invasive species, floodplain dynamics, land use); and (3) risks arising from direct water interception and use (eg:  current management arrangements).

The findings and knowledge gained from these projects are enlightening, we can now understand the likely impacts of these risks, the likelihood of their occurrence and their consequences.  This should enable us to develop better management strategies for the future. 


Publications

Research findings are organised against three headings (1) Risks arising from direct water interception and use (2) Risks arising from climate change and (3) Risks arising from catchment processes.  Scroll down the page to find these three research groupings, each of which provides the title, authors and a brief summary of key findings.  The hyperlinks will take you directly to the complete report.

Risks arising from direct water interception and use (eg: current management arrangements)

A case study of risks to flows and floodplain ecosystems posed by structures on the Macquarie Floodplain
Authors: Nairn, L, Brandis, K, Kingsford, RT, Steinfeld, C, Ren, S, & Rayner, T
Summary: Using the Macquarie River Valley as a study site, this project aimed to assess the risk to flow and floodplain ecosystems from structures and develop a methodology applicable to other areas of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Capacity to adaptively manage under climate change and variability
Authors:  Cork, S, Price, R & Connell, D
Summary:  Provides an assessment of how governments and communities can better respond to the potential for reduced future water availability in the Murray-Darling Basin using the recent drought responses as an example and opportunity for learning.

Potential water quantity and quality impacts in the Murray-Darling Basin from communities and industries responding to climate change
Authors: Australian National University
Summary:  Highlights the key findings of the full report, “Potential water quantity and quality impacts in the Murray-Darling Basin from communities and industries responding to climate change”. This summary report adopts a ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’ approach to understanding the challenges and possible opportunities of climate change to individuals and communities within the MDB.

Review of the literature relevant to potential water quantity and quality impacts in the Murray–Darling Basin from communities and industries responding to climate change
Authors:  Australian National University
Summary:  Addresses the impact of climate change on the Basin’s people, communities and industry. The objective being to prepare a full synthesis report on the potential direct effects of climate change on the MDB’s people, communities and industries

Potential water quantity and quality impacts in the Murray-Darling Basin from communities and industries responding to climate change – final report and project summary
Authors:  Australian National University
Summary: Provides an overview of the possible effects of climate change on industries and communities in the Murray–Darling Basin, and focuses on the direct impact of Climate Change.
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Risks driven by climate change (eg: drought, bushfire, salinity dynamics)

Distribution and ecological risk of reduced inorganic sulphur compound in river creeks of the Murray-Darling Basin
Authors: Ward, NJ, Bush, RT, Clay, C, Wong, VNL, & Sullivan, LA
Summary: Provides an overall assessment of the potential environmental risk posed by these compounds in channels across the Murray-Darling Basin. The report also presents a series of reported case studies on the properties and distribution of reduced inorganic sulfur compounds within the Basin

Risk of climate change impacts on salinity dynamics and mobilisation processes in the Murray-Darling Basin
Authors:  Holland, G, Collett, K & Caruso, N
Summary:  Provides an analysis of potential impacts of climate change on salinity processes and dynamics operating in the Murray-Darling Basin with the aim of improving knowledge and understanding and to provide input into future water quality and salinity planning.

Modelling the impacts of climate change on aquatic ecosystems of the Murray-Darling Basin: methodology for quantifying the effects of altered hydrology and aquatic habitat
Authors:  Marsh, N, Sheldon, F & Bond, N
Summary:  Describes the approach adopted for quantifying changes in aquatic habitat under different climate scenarios. The approach is to identify key species and quantify the watering needs of those species in the form of habitat models. These models of water needs are then run at key locations for alternative climate scenarios and the results provide a relative comparison of the likely changes in habitat availability under the different climate scenarios.

Modelling the impacts of climate change on aquatic ecosystems of the Murray-Darling Basin
Authors: Sheldon, F, Balcombe, S, Capon, S, Hadwen, W, Kennard, M, Bond, N & Marsh, NSummary:  Explores the impact of predicted climate change on key aquatic ecosystems of the Murray-Darling Basin. It reviews the ecosystem drivers that are likely to be influenced by climate change including surface temperature, hydrological alteration through precipitation and UVB radiation.

Impacts to water quality in the Murray-Darling Basin arising from climate change: literature review
Author:  Atkinson, B
Summary:  Literature review of the potential impacts to water quality arising from climate change. The key drivers of water quality in rivers and reservoirs are explored, followed by a synthesis of how climate change is anticipated to directly and indirectly affect water quality.

Impacts to water quality in the Murray-Darling Basin arising from climate change: water quality risks from extreme events
Authors:  Sinclair Knight Merz
Summary:  Examines risks to water quality from the increased frequency of extreme events induced by climate change in the Murray-Darling Basin. These extreme events include prolonged drought, bushfires, heat-waves, flooding and dust storms.
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 Risks relating to catchment processes (eg: forest hydrology, afforestation, invasive species, floodplain dynamics, land use)

The effects of climatic changes on plant physiological and catchment ecohydrological processes in the high-rainfall catchments of the Murray-Darling Basin
Authors: McVicar, TR, Donohue, RJ, O’Grady, AP & Li, L
Summary: Focuses on how forest hydrology and plant physiology is likely to change given climatic change in the context of planning long-term water resource management.

Native forest management in silvicultural systems and impacts on catchment water yields, Part 2: a critique of the ACF document “Woodchipping our water”
Author:  Bren, L
Summary:  In May 2009 the Australian Conservation Foundation released a report titled “Woodchipping our Water” which presents a case for reassessing the logging of the wet montane forests of Victorias Goulburn-Broken Catchment. This critique is a critique of the report and is part if the brief of the MDBA-funded project “Native Forest Management in Silvicultural Systems and Impacts on Catchment Yields”.

Native forest management in silvicultural systems and impacts on catchment water yields, Part 1: an analysis of hydrologic impacts of native forest management in the Murray-Darling Basin system
Authors: Bren, L, Davey, S & Jeyasingham
Summary:  Reviews the knowledge-base on the potential risks to inflows into the Murray-Darling system from native forest harvesting, to define suitable models for evaluation of this risk over the Basin, and to apply these to examine the impacts of such silviculture.

Afforestation risks to water resources in the Murray-Darling Basin 
Authors: SMEC
Summary:  Assesses the risks presented by afforestation to water supply in the Murray-Darling Basin, within the context of climate change. The overarching objective of the project was to synthesise existing knowledge, and to identify knowledge gaps and options for future planning and program development in relation to traditional forest plantations in high rainfall areas, and carbon sequestration afforestation throughout the Basin, and their associated potential impacts and benefits within the Murray-Darling Basin