The Environmental Watering Plan is a central part of the Basin Plan. Its purpose is to achieve the best possible environmental outcomes using the increased, but still finite, amount of water made available by the Basin Plan.
While the Basin Plan's Sustainable Diversion Limits and other reforms will return more water to rivers, this isn't enough in itself to ensure optimal environmental outcomes. The Environmental Watering Plan ensures that the size, timing and nature of river flows will maximise benefits to the environment. It aims to protect, enhance and nourish the Basin's rivers, wetlands, and floodplains together with their plants and animals.
These web pages provide information about the Environmental Watering Plan – what's in it, how it will work and how it will be implemented.
The Environmental Watering Plan will be the first time environmental watering will be co-ordinated Basin-wide across state and territory borders.
The Plan does not stipulate when and where specific sites should be watered. Instead, it establishes a framework for planning and coordination, including objectives, standards and priorities.
It requires the states to develop environmental watering plans for individual rivers and their catchments. The states will collaborate with holders of environmental water, as well as local communities and indigenous people, to prioritise environmental watering.
The Plan builds on existing environmental watering initiatives implemented throughout the Basin by state and regional organisations, including through partnerships with the Commonwealth.
The Plan will not operate in isolation. Environmental flows will often be coordinated with water released for irrigation, community use and industry. This will maximise benefits and minimise wastage.
The Plan incorporates two important concepts: Adaptive Management and Localism.
Adaptive Management begins by applying existing knowledge, from different sources, to management. Management is adaptive when decision makers acknowledge uncertainty, continuously monitor social, ecological and economic information, and include it in future management actions.
Adaptive Management means the Plan will change and evolve over time to incorporate new knowledge, improved hydrological modelling, prevailing weather and climate conditions, previous outcomes, changing priorities and the requirements of different sites.
Adaptive Management also builds flexibility into planning. For example, heavy localised rainfall may provide managers with the opportunity at short notice to flood a river red gum forest using a minimal amount of additional water.
These are operational decisions, that can't be made in advance or on a Basin-wide level. They must be made in real time and at a local level.
That is why Localism is so important. River managers need to recognise, respect and respond to the needs of local communities and local environments. Managers need to tap local knowledge and experience, and establish effective mechanisms for consultation and feedback.
Only by incorporating Localism into Adaptive Management, can managers deliver the best environmental outcomes.
Birdlife flourishing in a section of the Macquarie Marshes in NSW, April 2002. Peter Solness