ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Optimising water management in the Anthropocene? A case study of adaptive governance in a sub-catchment of the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia

Strategic Research Area

Sustainable Water



Investigators/ Researchers 

Jess Schoeman (PhD student) supervised by A/Prof  Catherine Allan (principal) and Prof Max Finlayson.


Lachlan River at ForbesThe Anthropocene is a world where the water system is under increasing pressure from climate change, globalization, socio-political change, loss of biodiversity and environmental degradation resulting from human activities. Rapid and pervasive change (from global to local scales) requires integrated and adaptive water management regimes with the capacity to respond to biophysical and socio-political disturbances.

Adaptive management, an iterative process of learning-by-doing, is one strategy to increase flexibility, resilience and the capacity of institutions to learn from, and respond to, unforseen developments. Local institutions are particularly important for mobilising adaptations to changing biophysical and socio-political circumstances.

This research aims to investigate the institutional characteristics and processes that facilitate or hinder adaptive water management at the catchment scale. The Lachlan catchment provides a case study of adaptive water management in the midst of institutional change (from water reforms and the realignment of management authorities) and biophysical stress (for example, from droughts and floods). Data will be collected through semi-structured interviews, focus groups and document analysis.


An analysis of the characteristics and processes that support adaptive water management in stress situations will provide a valuable contribution to water management theory and practice in the Anthropocene. 

Jess Schoeman
Charles Sturt University – Albury

July 2014