Taking the longer view: Timescales, fairness and a forgotten story of irrigation in Australia




Gross, Catherine
Dumaresq, David

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This paper explores timescales, changing worldviews and the impact of water reform on irrigation communities in Australia whose water sharing arrangements have roots in an earlier era. Through the story of Australian irrigation it describes some subtle shifts and changes in worldviews that have influenced land and water governance reform over time. It shows how reforms can result in tangible adverse effects on communities if they overturn critical features of earlier resource sharing arrangements without consideration of unintended consequences. Where changing worldviews, reforms and the ability of communities to adapt are out of synchronisation then friction ensues, as was seen in the Murray-Darling Basin when proposed reforms have resulted in widespread disputes between reformers and irrigation communities. Failure to understand how perspectives over time have changed leads to a failure to deliver fairness in water governance reforms.If policymakers lose understanding of the rationale for earlier arrangements in land and water governance and introduce reforms that do not take these into account then adaptation to the reform and social acceptance is impeded. Seen in this way, time can be considered a competing element in fair land and water governance. Maintaining an understanding of how and why change takes place over time, and the rationale for key elements of governance developed in an earlier era, is critical for those wishing to overcome the challenges of implementation, deliver fairness, and gain community acceptance of reform.





Journal of Hydrology


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