Water and Agriculture

Sustainability, Markets and Policies

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Agriculture is a major user of water and is responsible for much of its pollution. But the agricultural sector faces increasing competition for scarce water supplies from urban and industrial users and, increasingly, to sustain ecosystems.  This conference proceedings explores how both governments and the private sector can expand the role of markets to allocate water used by all sectors and to get agricultural producers to account for the pollution that their sector generates.



Institutional Overview from an Australian Perspective – With Particular Reference to the Murray-Darling Basin

Water is especially precious in Australia, the world’s driest inhabited continent. When negotiating the Australian Constitution, the states chose to secure the sovereign right ‘for reasonable use of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation’. Each state developed its own arrangements for sharing of the waters within its jurisdiction, and then became aware of the interdependencies for shared river systems like the Murray-Darling, which spans six jurisdictions. The Murray-Darling Basin Commission exists to facilitate and promote effective planning and management for the equitable, efficient, and sustainable use of the water, land, and other environmental resources. In the past, the sovereign governments have chosen to progress through the commission the sharing of waters (including the implementation of the cap on diversions), salinity management, and the introduction of interstate water trade. Current priorities (in the context of the National Water Initiative and policies within jurisdictions) include active management of water and works to achieve environmental outcomes at internationally significant sites along the River Murray, and development of policy to address emerging issues such as climate change and groundwater diversion. In the future, the commission will continue to support the jurisdictions as they contemplate evolution of water sharing arrangements, and the development of more sophisticated integrated environmental management approaches, towards a more sustainable basin.


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