What’s obstructing climate change adaptation in environmental water management?

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Authors

Meegan Judd, Martina Boese, Avril Horne, Nicholas Bond

Abstract

Climate change is irreversibly changing the water cycle, yet existing environmental flow assessment methods often fail to recognise the non stationarity of hydro climatic systems. Failure to do so will lead to the inability of environmental water management to achieve its restoration targets. Australia has undergone major reform over the past twelve years to recover water from consumptive use for environmental benefit. This paper examines how government agencies responsible for the planning and delivery of that environmental water establish ecological objectives, whether climate change adaptations are considered important, and if not whether there is a clear rationale or barrier to adaptation. We used semi structured interviews and an online survey of staff involved in environmental water management throughout Australia, with a focus on south east Australia, to gather information on methods and perceptions regarding these key issues. The results show water management staff are aware of the general impacts climate change will have on local areas they are responsible for. However, they do not have the necessary, detailed information about how ecosystems are likely to respond to climate change to plan with confidence. There is also a lack of legislative and policy guidance as to how to deal with the potential inability to meet existing environmental targets. We conclude that environmental water planning needs to more formally incorporate climate change considerations along with modelling approaches that can evaluate outcomes under a range of possible future hydro climatic scenarios. As the industry currently exists in Australia, it is ill prepared for the challenge of meeting legislated ecological targets under future climates.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.31223/X5ZP7N

Subjects

Biodiversity, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Other Life Sciences

Keywords

environmental flows, climate change, adaptation, decision making

Dates

Published: 2021-12-07 14:31

License

CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

Additional Metadata

Conflict of interest statement:
No

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