Lessons

Perspectives about what lessons should be learned from the history of water management in the MDB depend on the learner. The irrigation sector has learned how to be very effective in molding the forces of change even when the times seem hostile. Urban centers such as Adelaide and Melbourne have learned to depend on themselves—hence the shift to large-scale investment in desalination. Advocates of the reforms foreshadowed in the National Water Initiative of 2004 probably need to think more about what is needed to promote basin-wide consciousness and political support for sustainable management. The case for effective monitoring and auditing appears central. Without the information that was provided by the National Water Commission and the Sustainable River Audit, public policy debates will not achieve traction. There should also be more thinking about how to engage the public. One option would be to devolve management of much of the environmental water currently tightly managed by the national government to elected community regional organizations working within strong reporting frameworks. This would be messy, but it would provide members of the public with reason to get engaged. Water management left to the experts will continue as it has in the past.

 
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