[Back to Case Studies Index]



Hirji and Davis (2009b, pages 11-19) describe and analyze recent water policy reforms in Australia, including National Priciples for Provision of Water to Ecosystems, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Water Reform Framework, the Water Act of 2007, the National Water Initiative (NWI), and the role of the National Water Commission.  The report assesses the Australian water reforms in terms of the legal standing for environmental water allocation, inclusion of environmental water provisions in basin water resources plans, assessment of all relevant parts of the water cycle when undertaking environmental flow assessments, methods for setting environmental flow objectives, attention to both protection and restoration of environmental flows, requirements for stakeholder involvement, authority to audit implementation, and mechanism for turning value-laden terms into operational procedures.

The recently-established Environmental Water Scientific Advisory Committee will advise the Australian Government as it embarks on a monumental reform of water management for the Murray-Darling Basin. This committee will provide expert advice on setting environmental watering priorities, monitoring the benefits of environmental flows, and identifying knowledge gaps.  Dr. Barry Hart of Monash University in Clayton, Victoria, chairs the committee.
The Murray-Darling Basin Sustainable Yields project links together 70 surface- and ground-water models to generate a comprehensive assessment and synthesis of current and predicted water quantity throughout the 1,061,469-km2 basin on a monthly basis (CSIRO 2008a).  Water management agencies can use this integrated system to assess the potential consequences of their management policies and climate change at a regional or basin scale. Four hydrologic indicators of flow alteration from pre-development conditions were consistently examined for 30 major, river dependent ecosystems: average period between winter-spring floods, maximum period between such floods, average winter-spring flood volume per year, and average winter spring flood volume per event.  The Ecological Outcomes of Flow Regimes project links these predicted hydrologic changes to ecological responses of native fish, water birds, riparian and floodplain vegetation, aquatic vegetation, invertebrates, plankton, biogeochemistry, and geomorphology.

Arthington's IEWA abstract outlines ongoing application of the ELOHA framework to identify the habitat, water quality and ecological consequences of contrasting types and degrees of flow regulation by existing dams and weirs, focusing on riparian and aquatic vegetation, fish, and the structure and drivers of aquatic food webs in southeastern Queensland, Australia. The final project report is due in December 2010.

Tropical rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) research program, a collaboration of national research institutes, has generated exciting new information on how tropical ecosystems are structured, including the relative importance of different food sources driving aquatic food webs, patterns of regional biodiversity, hydrological bioregionalisation and conservation priorities.  As part of this program,  Pusey et al (2009); Kennard et al (in review) developed the first continental-scale ecohydrological classification of hydrologic regimes for Australia to support environmental flow assessments; the Australian hydrologic classification contains 12 distinct classes of river types. Many TRaCK projects generated information on flow-ecology relationships and Project 5.7 was consequently designed to deliver a framework to integrate these links. After theme-level workshops, ELOHA was adopted as the integrative e-flows framework.  Existing TRaCK projects have been mapped against the ELOHA framework, which emphasises the integrative nature of ELOHA.

The ELOHA framework, in addition to providing a conceptual underpinning, can be used to highlight research gaps and consequently where future effort should be focussed. In the TRaCK e-flows program (Project 5.7), the hydrological-ecological linkages supporting key assets have been identified as an area requiring further research, particularly to assess the multiple factors influencing key ecological assets.
For more information about ELOHA in Australia, contact:


Professor Stuart E. Bunn
Director, Australian Rivers Institute
Griffith University
Nathan, Queensland
Australia 4111
ph:  (61-7) 37357407
fax: (61-7) 37357615
email S.Bunn@griffith.edu.au