Environmental water is critical for improving Australia’s freshwater systems. But maximising the benefits from this water can be difficult as environmental responses to watering are often poorly understood. Adaptive management is a process for improving the effectiveness of natural resource management by learning from experience and using current knowledge to inform decision making. Multiple iterations of a ‘plan, do, learn’ cycle can lead to improved decisions and environmental outcomes. Adaptive management is mandatory under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, with several examples of improved outcomes at local scales. Long-term success of adaptive management relies on continued and equitable engagement from three key stakeholder groups; water managers, local communities and researchers. Our expert panel will discuss the successes, challenges and routes for improving environmental water outcomes through adaptive management.
A/g Assistant Secretary, Commonwealth Environmental Water Office
Hilary Johnson has worked in the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office for over 10 years. In this time, he has participated in and led the development of the Office’s planning and decision-making processes, legislative reviews, and communication and engagement activities. In his current role he is responsible for advising and implementing decisions on the use of Commonwealth environmental water in the southern Murray-Darling Basin, and the implementation of the Office’s Monitoring, Evaluation and Research program.
Meghan Mussehl is a third year PhD candidate at the University Melbourne working on integrating multiple knowledge sources into environmental flows assessments. She believes that engineering and science and can be a tool for connecting communities with their environment and looks for new ways to collaborate with stakeholders to achieve equitable management. Recently, she has worked with the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority conducting an environmental flows assessment on the Kaiela (Lower Goulburn) River. She designed a participatory modelling approach that brought together community members, researchers, and water agencies to identify ecological values and build quantitative models to support flow recommendations. She is particularly interested in the interactions between participatory approaches and adaptive management.
Professor of Freshwater Ecology, Charles Sturt University
Robyn Watts is a Professor of Environmental Science at Charles Sturt University where she teaches and leads interdisciplinary research projects on the ecology, management and restoration of river ecosystems. For more than 25 years Robyn has worked in partnership with biophysical scientists, social scientists, natural resource managers, practitioners and the community to find practical solutions to improve outcomes for river systems and communities. Several of her current projects are focussed on ecosystem responses to environmental watering in the mid Murray River system in south-eastern Australia. Robyn sits on several advisory committees and contributes advice on flows in the Murray-Darling Basin. Robyn has co-authored over 100 publications and has supervised 20 PhD and 15 Honours students.
John Pettigrew has been involved in the horticulture and grazing industries in Northern Victoria for most of his life, based in the Shepparton area, and has over 50 years’ experience in the irrigation and water resources industry. Beginning in irrigator politics and encompassing Goulburn Murray Water (GMW) water service committees, Board positions on GMW and the Goulburn Broken CMA and more recently as an environmental activist in the development and implementation of the Basin Plan. John is currently a Board member of the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group, Chair of the Goulburn Valley Environment Group and water spokesperson Environmental Farmers Network. His career highlights include working on the water reform, Victorian farm dam legislation, River Red Gum National Parks and the Basin Plan.
Dr Sharon Davis
(Chair), Enterprise Senior Fellow, Water, Environment and Agriculture
Dr Sharon Davis has over 20 years’ experience at the cutting edge of water reform in Australia, including 12 years at Senior Executive Level. She has experience across water and natural resource management related policy and technical programs at the state and federal level, including as the Executive Director, Water Resources with Victorian State Government, Australia. As Executive Director of the Water Resources Division, Dr Davis delivered updated Planning and Entitlements policy framework and Grid and Markets components of the state’s water policy Water for Victoria 2016 which sets the water policy for decades to come.