Griffith leads research partnership for sustainable water management

A research partnership led by Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute is
developing science to underpin improved management and assessment of the
health of Australia’s river and wetland ecosystems.

As a result of reduced water availability and unsustainable demands on our

environment, Australia’s rivers, lakes, wetlands and floodplains have suffered

severe degradation.

There is growing recognition of the need to supply ‘environmental water’ to protect and conserve these important ecosystems.

The Ecological Responses to Altered Flow Regimes Cluster, launched last week

at the National Museum of Australia, aims to develop science that will optimise

the benefits of this water for aquatic ecosystems.

The research will initially focus on the Murray—Darling Basin, but it is expected that many of the findings will be applicable to other river and wetland systems.

The Cluster, which is funded under CSIRO’s $3m Cluster Fund, brings together some of Australia’s most respected water scientists and ecologists from CSIRO, Griffith University, the University of New South Wales, Monash University, Charles Sturt University, La Trobe University and the Victorian Department of

Sustainability’s Arthur Rylah Institute.

Their expertise will contribute to the development of a knowledge platform which

will provide water managers with an increased capacity for decision making concerning environmental water delivery.

“Despite recent rainfall across much of the Murray—Darling Basin we need to

ensure that we sustainably manage our water resources and protect aquatic

ecosystems into the future,” said Cluster Leader Professor Stuart Bunn, from the

Australian Rivers Institute.

“The state of knowledge about aquatic ecosystems and how they respond to flow

has not kept pace with the problems that have arisen due to management approaches and reduced water availability.”

Drawing upon the best available environmental modelling and monitoring tools,the Cluster aims to produce an inventory of the environmental assets in the Murray—Darling Basin; an assessment of the water requirements of these assets and a framework for optimising environmental flow allocation decisions.

“Understanding how ecosystems respond to environmental watering is key to

ensuring that management practices are effective. We aim to develop models for

ecosystem assessment which provide a long-term, whole-of-Basin approach to environmental watering,” said Professor Bunn.

He added that the Cluster will help to address the fragmented research effort in

this area, and also provide science to underpin the development of an evaluation

program to more effectively assess environmental watering outcomes.