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Environmental Water Allocations in Australia

April 2006

Citation: ELR 10319

Author: Alex Gardner

Editor's Summary: Throughout Australia, allocating water to protect the natural environment is a fundamental aspect of managing the right to take water for consumptive purposes. The allocation of water for environmental purposes, therefore, requires a balance between competing uses. Further, decisions to allocate water to consumptive uses in compromise of natural ecosystems reflect societal choices about what will be an acceptable sustainable use of water resources. And because water resources legislation reflects these societal choices, some core principles need to apply. In this Article, Alex Gardner examines the national water policy principles pertaining to the determination and implementation of environmental water allocations in Australia. He then focuses on the progress that has been made in New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia in establishing an effective legislative framework for allocating water to protect the natural environment.

Alex Gardner is a member of the Faculty of Law at the University of Western Australia, where he teaches and researches natural resources and environmental law. He also teaches water resources law at the Australian National University in Canberra, and has been a consultant in water law for the past decade. The author would like to thank Vivian Chung for her research assistance. This is a revised version of a paper presented at the international symposium, Sustainable Water Management: Comparative Perspectives From Australia, Europe, and the United States, in September 2005 hosted by the National Europe Centre of the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. As this Article was going to press, the new Premier of Western Australia announced in February 2006 that Western Australia would sign the National Water Initiative Agreement.

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