Approach to managing Commonwealth environmental water
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder is committed to being a ‘good neighbour’ and has adopted the following approach to managing environmental water:
- Maximising the environmental outcomes: The Commonwealth environmental water portfolio is used to achieve the best environmental effect, through water delivery, carry over and trade.
- No intended harm: a conservative risk based approach to environmental flow management is taken so that unintended impacts do not occur. All decisions on water use are informed by a comprehensive assessment of risk, with arrangements put in place to ensure risks are appropriately managed. Commonwealth environmental water is also ordered and delivered at flow rates generally below the operational limits to provide a buffer against unpredictable local inflows resulting from rainfall.
- Using local knowledge: We are committed to working closely with communities and delivery partners (including state agencies, river operators and local advisory groups) so they can engage meaningfully on Commonwealth environmental water management. This engagement is critical to ensure water is delivered to important environmental assets and potential impacts and risks are identified and managed.
- Negotiating consent: If potentially unacceptable impacts on private property are identified we will negotiate with affected landholders to avoid or minimise any potential problems and obtain consent to watering events. In many situations landholders support watering events because the outcomes are mutually beneficial, such as by creating environmental benefits while also supporting the productivity of floodplain pastures.
- Equal treatment: Commonwealth environmental water is delivered by river operators within the current operating framework that applies to all types of water deliveries. Commonwealth environmental water is subject to fees and charges and receives the same allocations as equivalent entitlements held for consumptive use. The underlying entitlement characteristics should not be changed; however, the operating rules which enable water use should continue to evolve to meet the needs of all water users, just as they always have.
- Flexibility: At times of critical environmental need, the Commonwealth may assert its rights to access its share of channel capacity. However, in the event of channel capacity becoming limited, we can be flexible about how and when environmental water is ordered so as to minimise any potential impact on others.
Working with others
Consistent with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder’s commitment to community engagement, long-term monitoring has been developed in consultation with, and involves, local land and water managers. We will be working on improving mechanisms to share information from monitoring with environmental water managers and the community. Localised teams made up of a range of experts including scientists from some of Australia’s leading regional universities and research institutions will undertake each of the seven projects.
This collaborative effort is part of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder’s commitment to facilitating the sharing of knowledge and expertise amongst the many people across the Basin who are contributing to, or have an interest in, environmental water.
The time, expertise and advice provided by our delivery partners, other environmental water holders, members of the scientific community, regional water management advisory groups and the many landowners who work with us to plan, manage and monitor the use of environmental water in the Murray-Darling Basin is essential to the success of the Long Term Intervention Monitoring Project.
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder seeks the efficient, effective and transparent management of the Commonwealth environmental water portfolio to maximise environmental outcomes at a Basin-scale and over the long-term.
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office has developed a number of operating frameworks and processes to support the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder’s portfolio management planning and decision-making. These are outlined below:
Commonwealth Environmental Outcomes Framework
The Environmental Water Outcomes Framework identifies the short and long-term environmental outcomes that Commonwealth environmental water can contribute to.
This outcomes framework sets out the best available science for how environmental water provides benefits for the environment. It underpins the management of Commonwealth environmental water and is used to:
- guide environmental watering
- understand and demonstrate environmental outcomes
- ensure environment watering aligns with the objectives of the Environmental Watering Plan.
The framework was developed by the Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre (MDFRC) and represents the cumulative knowledge of decades of scientific research and water management practice. It informs planning, decision-making and monitoring, and ensures environment watering aligns with the objectives of the Environmental Watering Plan.
Determining Commonwealth Environmental Water Use
A Framework for Determining Commonwealth Environmental Water Use has been prepared to guide decisions on the use of Commonwealth environmental water. The framework sets out:
- the role and obligations of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, as established by the Water Act 2007 and Basin Plan
- the overall objectives and scope of Commonwealth water use, including how the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office will contribute to the Basin Plan's environmental watering objectives
- how watering options are developed and assessed based on a set of criteria and in accordance with the Basin Plan's 'Principles to be applied in environmental watering'
- how watering actions are implemented and monitored.
This framework includes a set of criteria to assess different environmental watering options.
Water Quality and Salinity Management Plan
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder must have regard to the water quality and salinity targets for managing flows, when making decisions about the use of environmental water.
Commonwealth Environmental Water Trading Framework
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Trading Framework sets out the operating requirements for the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and staff of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office when involved in commercial water trading.
The trading framework has been developed to ensure that the CEWH's trading activities:
- support enhanced environmental outcomes;
- have regard to social and economic outcomes;
- consider impacts on the market, including any third-party impacts;
- are undertaken in a manner which meets legislative requirements;
- are financially responsible, fair, equitable, transparent and accountable; and that
- the CEWH and Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) staff act with integrity and high ethical standards.
The Trading Framework is underpinned by the Water Act 2007 (Water Act) and the Basin Plan trading rules. These are the primary legislative instruments that govern the circumstances under which trade can occur and the information used when making a trade decision.
Further information on the trade of Commonwealth environmental water is available on the CEWO Trade page.
Commonwealth Environmental Water Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting and Improvement Framework
The Commonwealth Environmental Water - Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting and Improvement Framework (MERI) provides a broad overview of how the Office will approach MERI activities for the use of Commonwealth environmental water. These activities support the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder in meeting its requirements under Chapter 13 of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
A summary of the Framework is outlined below:
Further information on monitoring and evaluating the use of Commonwealth environmental water is available on the CEWO Monitoring page.
The Basin Plan places a number of reporting requirements on the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.
Annual reporting is required on the:
- utilisation of local knowledge
- use of environmental water
- implementation of the environmental watering plan
- implementation of the water quality and salinity management plan.
Five-yearly reporting is required on the achievement of environmental outcomes at a Basin-scale.
Portfolio Management Planning
In addition to the operational frameworks, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office also undertakes portfolio management planning each year. Portfolio management plans are developed for ten regions across the Basin. For information on portfolio management in a specific catchment, please refer to the relevant catchment page.