Academic journal article Rural Society

Water Politics in the Murray-Darling Basin

Academic journal article Rural Society

Water Politics in the Murray-Darling Basin

Article excerpt

WATER POLITICS IN THE MURRAY-DARLING BASIN Connell, D. (2007) Annandale, NSW Australia: The Federation Press. ISBN 978-1-862867-633-0 pp. xii + 241 RRP AUD 49.95 paperback.

This book is developed from a PhD undertaken during Connells 'four good years' at the Australian National University Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, and draws on his experience during eight years with the Murray-Darling Basin Commission where he went 'still largely a prisoner of my background in the humanities and learnt that science and engineering are interesting as well as important'. Connell comments that PhD support from Land & Water Australia kept him focused on the need to search for elements of water policy that will benefit both production and sustainability.

As might be expected from his background and experience, Connell is able to cross traditional discipline boundaries with ease and eloquence, approaching the challenges of natural resources policy and management with a depth of scientific understanding against a carefully researched historical and political backdrop. He details and explains the reasons behind complex decision making and statefederal tensions, taking an appropriate independent and scholarly position to describe the history of water politics in the Basin. However, in later chapters which cover more recent developments, notably the National Water Initiative and '10 billion dollar rural water plan'(now the National Plan for Water security) he gives an incisive and critical analysis of approach and prospects for success I agree with Connell that the sophisticated hydrological knowledge that is required to implement the National Water Initiative at a catchment level is not yet available, and that there is as yet no agreed definition of sustainability to underpin these new policies.

I recommend this book as a very comprehensive account of water politics in the Murray-Darling Basin The structure is: Chapter 1 - a context for talking about water; Chapter 2 - governments take control, 1880-1920's; Chapter 3 - establishing a public policy framework, 1900-19805S; Chapter 4 - another attempt at basin-wide management in the 19805S; Chapter 5-contradictions within contemporary water management; and Chapter 6 responsibility for reform, what should be done. …

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