ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Establishing more acceptable and achievable environmental watering targets in a complex changing world, (2012-15)

Strategic Research Area

Social research for regional NRM,
Sustainable water


ILWS PhD scholarship, Top-up of $5000 per annum from the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training

Investigators/ Researchers

Saideepa Kumar (PhD student)
Supervisors: Professor Allan Curtis (principal), Dr Paul Humphries, Dr Emily Mendham and Dr Wendy Merritt, ANU


Since the commencement of the Water Act (2007), increased volumes of water are being set aside for environmental use in the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) in Australia. Settings targets for the use of this environmental water is problematic due to several reasons such as high climate variability, embryonic knowledge on ecological responses to water availability, diverse set of values among stakeholders and the high opportunity costs of allocated water.

This research sought to identify guiding principles and ways to address the challenges of establishing achievable and socially acceptable environmental watering targets under complex uncertain conditions.

Drawing upon case studies in the Lachlan and Loddon catchments, the research concludes that targets for environmental watering are based on narrow boundaries of river health, resulting in the exclusion of several interests and influences. The research highlights how institutional arrangements driven by imperatives of efficiency and accountability, tend to ignore uncertainties associated with the dynamics of river ecosystems.

Charlie's Point Great Cumbung Swamp
At Charlie's Point in the Great Cumbung Swamp, Lachlan, Feb 2013


In addition to providing a critical review of current policy and practice, the research also advances methodology for conducting boundary critique in complex institutional settings. 

(Saideepa  Kumar completed her PhD in February 2016)

Saideepa Kumar
Charles Sturt University – Albury

June 2016