Future Flow-MER: The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) collaborative design of its future monitoring, evaluation and research activities within the Murray-Darling Basin.
The CEWO is commencing the design of its future monitoring, evaluation and research activities (referred to as Flow-MER2.0) to build on and improve the current Flow-MER program. This builds on the December 2020 independent scientific evaluation of the Long-Term Intervention Monitoring (LTIM) and the Environmental Water Knowledge and Research (EWKR) projects, consultation with Basin stakeholders and over ten years of experience in managing environmental water within the Basin.
The final evaluation report, technical appendices and the response from the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) are available at: Review of LTIM and EWKR. The evaluation provided 16 recommendations for improvements and further considerations which are summarised below:
- clarifying purpose of the Basin scale evaluation and improving alignment to the Basin-wide Environmental Watering Strategy
- improving design to incorporate flexibility, responsiveness and integration of activities
- improving communication, engagement and collaboration with Basin stakeholders
- improving First Nations engagement, participation and partnerships
- improving data management to ensure data accessibility and sharing
The current Flow-MER Program was scheduled to conclude in June 2022. However, the CEWO is seeking to extend the current Flow-MER Area-scale and Basin-scale contracts for one year, to enable monitoring to continue in 2022-23 and subsequent Basin-scale evaluation reporting while the collaborative design process is completed. Consequently, the current Flow-MER Program will conclude in June 2023 and the new program will commence in July 2023.
Collaborative Design Process
The CEWO is engaging the CSIRO through the Department’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to facilitate a collaborative design process for the Basin evaluation and research component of Flow-MER2.0. The CSIRO currently lead the Flow-MER Basin-scale project and is using a similar collaborative model as in Flow-MER, engaging a team to lead the collaborative design, and procuring people from across the Murray-Darling Basin to contribute to this.
The Basin collaborative design process commenced in September 2021 and will conclude by March 2022. The key steps in the process include:
- Workshop with the CEWO (22 September 2021)
- Engagement workshops with CEWO, Flow-MER Providers, Commonwealth and Jurisdiction representative, First Nations, other research groups (October – November 2021)
- Flow-MER2.0 document review and update (November 2021 – January 2022)
- Independent Advisory Group – review and recommendations (December 2021 – January 2022)
- Document wrap up and Basin evaluation and research design completed (February – March 2022).
After completion of the Basin collaborative design of Flow-MER2.0, the CEWO will undertake a similar collaborative process to design the area scale component from April 2022 – June 2023.
As there are some dependencies from the Basin design the key steps in the Area-scale design process are therefore indicatively outlined below:
- Finalisation of program documentation (March – April 2022)
- Development of procurement documentation for Basin and Area-scale (May – June 2022)
- Procurement and contracting of Basin and Area-scale (July 2022 - November 2022)
- Stage 1: Planning (November 2022- June 2023)
- collaborative design of Area-scale monitoring, evaluation and research plan(s)
- development of Basin-scale Evaluation and Research Plan
- Stage 2: Implementation
- Basin and Area-scale Flow-MER2.0 (July 2023 – June 2027)
- Stage 1: Planning (November 2022- June 2023)
Independent Advisory Group
To help provide advice and review on the future design of Flow-MER2.0 Program, the CEWO has established an Independent Advisory Group. The members are Prof Peter Davies, Prof Fran Sheldon, Dr Jenni Metcalfe, Ms Chrissy Grant and Rhonda Butcher as coordinator. This group will review, advise and make recommendations to the CEWO, ensuring independent oversight of the collaborative design process and program design.
The Basin-scale Flow-MER2.0 collaborative design is guided by the following principles:
- Collaboration - creating consultative virtual environments to enable respectful discussions and advice from a range of stakeholders including:
- Government agencies
- Science providers
- Independent Advisory Group
- Aboriginal scientists
- Build on success - recognising the strengths and limitations of past programs as identified in the recent reviews of Flow-MER, LTIM and EWKR
- Program Purpose - contributing to CEWO legislative reporting requirements and adaptive management of environmental water
- Complementary – aligning with and complementing the Basin Environmental Watering Strategy, CEWO Selected Areas MER and other programs, including jurisdictional activities
- Culturally inclusive – including Aboriginal people and Indigenous science
- Data management and sharing - enhancing the value and utility of monitoring and research data, through improved data governance, management and sharing
- Communication and engagement - improving the effectiveness and impact of communication and engagement activities both internal and external to the Program
- Innovative and robust - encouraging innovative approaches that are robust and underpinned by scientifically defensible research, monitoring and evaluation
- Impactful - promoting a reporting structure which is impactful, efficient and focussed on clear communication of fit-for-purpose outcomes and guidance to inform legislative reporting and improve water management.