Top water experts urge renewed action to secure future of Murray-Darling Basin

23 April 2024

The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) has today urged a suite of actions and investments to protect the future of the Murray-Darling Basin in the face of climate change, which is threatening the river’s health and sustainability.

In a new essay series A thriving Murray-Darling Basin in 50 years: Actions in the face of climate change, ATSE urges more investment in technologies to monitor the river for climate impacts and in sustained governance with regional and rural communities at the centre, coupled with evolving our agriculture industry in the face of decreased water availability and accepted water sharing policies.

The essay series highlights the vibrant, thriving potential of the Basin if sustainably managed for the benefit of communities and the environment. To achieve this, it recommends the reinstatement of a body to provide independent objective policy advice on national water management, including for the Murray-Darling Basin, to help guide consistent national data-driven decision-making.

ATSE President Katherine Woodthorpe AO FTSE said the future of the Murray-Darling Basin is recognised to be at severe risk and that comprehensive action across Federal, State and Territory Governments will be decisive to safeguard its biodiversity, social and economic importance to Australia.

“The Murray-Darling Basin covers one-seventh of Australia’s landscape and is responsible for delivering a significant share of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product. But more importantly, to safeguard and protect this resource for the future, Australia must take urgent action in the face of increasing climate change.

“To inform evidence-based decision making, we need a central data custodian for all water quantity and water quality monitoring data, which is transparently shared with all stakeholders.

“Managing the Basin effectively will also require a review of institutional arrangements that govern property rights at a Territory, State and Commonwealth level for consistency as well as climate-proofing.

“At the heart of this plan, we need to ensure institutional governance benefits rural and regional communities including addressing the cultural water rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

“It is time for a long-term approach to managing our most important water resource,” said Dr Woodthorpe.

The Academy looks forward to advising the Federal, State and Territory Governments on shaping a comprehensive plan for the Basin that is resilient to our changing climate and charts a course for a thriving river system over the next 50 years.


Further information:

  • Read the summary of A thriving Murray-Darling Basin in 50 years: Actions in the face of climate change
  • Read the full set of essays authored by some of Australia’s leading water experts
  • The expert editors of the essay collection, Dr John Radcliffe FTSE and Dr Therese Flapper FTSE, and the Chair of the ATSE Water Forum, Professor Stuart Khan FTSE, are available for interview.

Media enquiries: Adam Huttner-Koros, Communications Specialist – 0468 520 373 |

Beautiful Cliffs on the River Murray

List of essays:

  • Hydroclimate of the Murray-Darling Basin
    • Dr Lu Zhang (CSIRO), Dr Francis Chiew (CSIRO) and Dr Tom Hatton FTSE (Thomas Hatton Environmental Consulting)
  • Challenges and adaptation needs for water quality in the Murray-Darling Basin in response to climate change
    • John Verhoeven (UNSW Sydney & Infrastructure and Natural Resources), Professor Stuart Khan FTSE (University of Sydney) and Dr Megan Evans (UNSW Canberra)
  • Surface water and groundwater connectivity in the Murray-Darling Basin: Integrated management of connected resources
    • Dr Andrew Ross (The Australian National University) and Hon Professor John Williams FTSE (The Australian National University)
  • Riverine ecosystems and health: Soil-landscapes
    • Professor Robert Fitzpatrick FTSE (University of Adelaide & CSIRO), Associate Professor Luke Mosley (University of Adelaide), Dr Brett Thomas (University of Adelaide) and Dr Erinne Stirling(University of Adelaide & CSIRO)
  • Climate change challenges and adaptation needs for Murray-Darling Basin Ramsar Wetlands of international importance
    • Dr Kerri Muller (Kelli Muller NRM) and Dr Nick Whiterod (Nature Glenelg Trust)
  • The past, present and future of the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth
    • Associate Professor Luke Mosley (University of Adelaide), Dr Brenton Zampatti (CSIRO) and Dr Matt Gibbs (CSIRO)
  • Restoring sustainability to Murray-Darling Basin freshwater fish and aquatic ecosystems
    • Dr John Koehn (Charles Sturt University)
  • Challenges and adaptation opportunities for the Murray-Darling Basin in response to climate change: Industry development & adjustment
    • Dr Anne-Maree Boland (RMCG), Tim Cummins (Tim Cummins and Associates), Claire Flanagan-Smith (RMCG), Carl Larsen (RMCG) and Rebecca Schwarzman (RMCG)
  • Achieving a healthy, resilient and sustainable Murray-Darling Basin
    • Professor Sarah Ann Wheeler FASSA (University of Adelaide)