South Australia’s River Murray: Social and cultural values in water planning
The South Australian River Murray is at the end of the Murray-Darling Basin which spans four Australian states, and is reliant on upstream flow. Under the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement, South Australia has an annual entitlement of 1850 GL flow. In the recent debilitating drought, the Agreement was put 'on hold' while emergency sharing arrangements provided for critical human needs, with meagre supplies for any other consumptive use. The drought also impacted on environmental values already compromised by river regulation and the high levels of water consumption. Conducted during the policy development phase of a second water allocation plan, our research trialled three tools designed to assess economic, social and cultural values for the new plan. The first was a pilot social impact study of effects of changing water availability in the Murraylands. In the second, researchers used a participatory modelling tool conjunctively with multi-criteria analysis to identify community values relevant to the prioritisation of environmental assets in the context of water scarcity. The third tool addressed Indigenous cultural values associated with water. Results of trials demonstrate that identifying public and social values in water require a number of interactive and deliberative tools in order to engage the broad community in water planning. Of the three tools, the most innovative was the second tool as it facilitated deliberation about the relative importance of the environment and helped shift individuals from entrenched interest based positions to consensus on values in wetlands.
Journal of Hydrology
Environmental and Natural Resources Law