PSC420 Water Policy and Management (8)


In this subject students gain an in-depth knowledge about water policy. The subject is structured in three modules each of three units. Unit 1 provide the context and introduction to water quantity and quality including trends in water supply, climate change and risks to water resources in Australia. Unit 2 explores water use and demand including the value of water to the environment, irrigation agriculture and urban uses, water use efficiency and recycling. Unit 3 focused on water policy and planning including principles of water reform, current developments in water policy and catchment-based decision-making. On completion students will be able to apply their knowledge of water policy in order to make sound independent judgments about the wise management of our rivers

+ Subject Availability Modes and Location

Session 2
Distance*Wagga Wagga Campus
*This subject offering contains a residential school. Please view following information for further details.
Continuing students should consult the SAL for current offering details: PSC420
Where differences exist between the Handbook and the SAL, the SAL should be taken as containing the correct subject offering details.

Subject information

Duration Grading System School:
One sessionHD/FLSchool of Agricultural and Wine Sciences

Enrolment restrictions

Incompatible subject(s)

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this subject, students should:
  • have an understanding of the water cycle including climate change and variability, risks to supply, and interaction of surface and groundwater
  • have an understanding of the value of water (quality and quantity) to different users
  • have an understanding of the principles of aquatic ecology and allocation of water for the environment
  • be able to critically reflect on key regional, national and international issues related to water
  • be able to critically reflect on issues associated with water use efficiency and management of water in sustainable agriculture (dryland and irrigation)
  • be able to critically reflect on issues associated with urban and industrial water use; effluent management and recycling (rural and urban)
  • be able to review, consolidate, and synthesize the knowledge that underpins the development of water policy in Australia, future challenges, and roles and responsibilities of government, agencies, communities, industry and individuals
  • be able to apply integrated catchment management and regional decision-making in Australia principles in order to develop sound independent judgments regarding the wise management of waterways;


The subject will cover the following topics:
Module 1 Water in Australia.
An introduction and overview of trends in water policy and management including:
- pressures (population and changing demography, climate change; land use change; rainfall-runoff relationships)
- status of water (storage, surface and groundwater reserves, new sources of water)
- social, economic and environmental aspects; consumptive use(urban, industry, power, agriculture, mining, tourism); recreation and aesthetics; cultural and indigenous significance; river health and water for the environment
- planning: balancing supply and demand; introduction to policy instruments; sticks and carrots
- audit and status reports - National Land and Water Resources Audit, State of the Environment
- case studies of hotspots and topical issues including Murray Darling Basin, Northern Australia, South East Queensland, Peel Harvey; Gnagara Mound and Yarragadee Aquifer Perth, coastal and estuarine

Module 2 Water quantity and the water cycle. The water cycle including:
- frameworks for integrating supply and demand; stocks and flows
- hydrological characteristics (seasonality, connectivity, comparison of natural and regulated hydrographs); hydrological variability in Australian inland rivers, especially the Murray-Darling system;
- climate variability and change
- surface and groundwater interaction
- land and water interactions: effects of native vegetation clearing and afforestation on surface and subsurface hydrology and on water quality; risks to water supply in Australia-land use change and climate change
- options for water and catchment management in a holistic context

Module 3: Water quality. Quality characteristics including:
- salinity, eutrophication, turbidity and suspended particles, trace metals, pesticides, pathogens, endocrine disruptors
- effluents and drainage
- guidelines for drinking, effluents, drainage, environmental protection, irrigation, re-use

Module 4: Water for the environment. Principles of aquatic ecology including:
- river, wetland, floodplain and estuarine condition
- environmental flow
- selection of condition indicators
- monitoring responsibilities
- institutional arrangements and responsibilities

Module 5: Irrigation and agriculture. Critical issues including:
- international food security and export of virtual water
- meaning and assessment of sustainable production in Australia
- responsibilities, planning, incentives, regulation, green labelling
- irrigation water use efficiency;
- property rights and trading

Module 6: Urban /industrial water and recycling (rural and urban) including:
- water for urban use: towns and cities, industry, power, mining
- improved efficiency and water-saving strategies
- new water sources: desalination, rural-urban transfer
- reuse and recycling
- rural effluent management.

Module 7: Principles of water policy and integrated catchment management including:
- roles and responsibilities
- Council of Australian Governments Water Reform Framework
- water for the environment
- water audit and cap
- costing and pricing, property rights and trading

Module 8: Current developments in water policy including:
- The National Plan for Water Security
- Labors election plan
- new arrangements for the Murray Darling Basin
- re-emphasis on urban water
- dealing with water scarcity and climate change

Module 9: Tools for catchment-based planning and best practice examples including:
- planning frameworks and processes for adaptive management
- principles of catchment care
- tools to support decision making at catchment level: economic, social and environmental considerations; choice modelling, multicriteria analysis, modelling
- best practice case studies.

Residential School

This subject contains a compulsory 3 day residential school. This residential schools provides irreplaceable opportunities for peer and staff interaction. Expert panels and industry/agency specialist provide presentations and debate and there are guest lectures from a variety of people intimately involved in water policy. Field visits (water for the environment, management of regulated rivers, irrigation farms) provide contextualised knowledge required for the deeper thinking needed to participate in the debate and discussion with the expert panel


The information contained in the 2016 CSU Handbook was accurate at the date of publication: 06 September 2016. The University reserves the right to vary the information at any time without notice.