Giving a dam: University of Melbourne researchers appointed to Murray Darling Basin advisory committee

By Claudia Hooper

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has announced the appointment of seven distinguished Australian scientists and engineers to the independent body that helps guide the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The Murray–Darling Basin is the largest and most complex river system in Australia. Running from Queensland through New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and South Australia it spans 77,000 kilometres of rivers, many of which are connected.  It’s also the food bowl of the nation with the agriculture industry worth $24 billion annually.

However, drought and increased use of the waterways for agriculture, manufacturing and communities led to a decline in the health of the basin; something the MDBA sought to address through the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan adopted in 2012.

The Committee’s work will help build confidence that the Basin Plan is supported by robust analysis, science and knowledge to deliver sustainable outcome for communities, farmers and the environment, for current and future generations.

The plan aims to bring the basin back to a healthier and more sustainable level while maintaining support for farming in the area. This involves changes to the water management including the implementation of sustainable diversion limits, improvements to irrigation and dam infrastructure, ground water management, water markets and trade to encourage efficient water use as well as active monitoring of water quality and the waterways themselves.

The Committee established to help advise on the MDB Plan’s progress includes two University of Melbourne academics; Professor Robert Vertessy and Professor Michael Stewardson.

Formerly head of the Bureau of Meteorology, Professor Vertessy will chair the group, bringing expertise in water security and environmental management. Professor Stewardson has been appointed for his expertise in environmental hydrology, water sharing and river science.

The two professors join a diverse group of experts in water law and governance, environmental and natural resource economics and cultural geography.

MDBA Chair Neil Andrew said,“the Committee’s work will help build confidence that the Basin Plan is supported by robust analysis, science and knowledge to deliver sustainable outcome for communities, farmers and the environment, for current and future generations.

“It is critically important that the Authority’s deliberations are supported by active engagement with the academic community. Open and in-depth discussion about the relevant environmental, economic and social science is important if the Authority is to balance different lines of evidence and advice in adapting the Basin Plan so we can achieve the best possible outcomes.”

Prof Mike Stewardson said he “looks forward to continuing to contribute to significant water management reforms underway in the Basin.

“It’s exciting and rewarding to be working with the MDBA teams and a diverse group of outstanding scientists on ACSEES, and better still that we get to work on big water science challenges like evaluating outcomes of the Basin Plan and planning for climate change. All these things have significant importance for water management in Australia.”

The Committee’s focus for 2018-19 will be water resource planning, monitoring and evaluation, climate change and adaptive management.

Header image by Tim J Keegan [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons