J16.2
Drought, climate change and water resources management in Australia

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Thursday, 27 January 2011: 11:15 AM
Drought, climate change and water resources management in Australia
618-620 (Washington State Convention Center)
Jason Alexandra, Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Canberra, Australia

Australian natural and agricultural systems have evolved under the boom and bust cycles of flood and drought. Whilst climate variability has been a feature of our environment, planning for climate change poses new policy challenges. Australia's faces major adaptation challenges in agriculture, conservation, and natural resources management. In facing the prospects of a drier future (in the mid latitude zones) it is important that we draw on the lessons from previous droughts and of operating within a highly variable climate.

Australia's arrangements for managing water scarcity continue to evolve with flexible water allocation systems, and national policy reforms focused on water planning, and water markets. Recent national reforms, including the Water Act 2007, which mandates an integrated Murray Darling Basin Plan, based on best available science, including climate science. My talk will focus on:

* advances in climate science deliver by the South Eastern Australian Climate Initiative: * the dynamics of large scale catchment processes, such as bushfires, and forest water use which impacts on runoff and stream flow; and * how uncertainty about future climates and their impacts requires a risk based approach to planning and management.

Innovative and adaptive policy is being framed in Australia and internationally to meet the unprecedented challenges facing water and natural resource management. During the 20th century, the world population tripled, water use increased six-fold and the area devoted to agriculture escalated. As a result the 21st century is increasingly referred to as the “Anthropocene” with humans the dominant evolutionary force. The global community faces challenges such as “shortages of clean and accessible freshwater, degradation of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, increases in soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere, declines in fisheries, and the possibility of significant changes in climate” (IGBP 2001). Global recognition of these problems is mobilising a multitude of creative and innovative responses, including many adaptive policies and strategies. I will explore how Australian water policy reforms may provide a useful test bed for operating in a world of intense competition for water and a case study in the integration of conservation and production.

IGBP (International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme) 2001, Global Change and Earth Systems – A Planet under Pressure, The International Council for Science C/o IGBP Secretariat, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, SWEDEN Website: http://www.igbp.kva.se/