Australia has been a world leader in water law and governance reform. However, after 20 years of progress, water is quickly slipping from the national agenda. Despite many remaining implementation challenges and drought risks, there has been little detailed intergovernmental direction about the “next steps” in Australia’s water strategy.

At this critical juncture, this Special Issue of the Environmental and Planning Law Journal (EPLJ Vol 33 Part 4), compiled by Guest Editor, Associate Professor Cameron Holley (UNSW Australia), brings together the contributions of leading water law and governance experts as we look back on key lessons and prepare to tackle the next series of challenges, by examining a series of core questions:

7180153290_20597d945b1. How far has Australia come with the National Water Initiative? What has it achieved and what barriers did it face?

2. Is the current governance system a sufficient model capable of broader application to meet future water challenges and a sustainable future?

3. What fundamental reforms and changes might be required and what other credible water governance and policy alternatives might be available?

This Special Issue analyses these issues across key policy parameters, including:

  • markets (eg property and regulating cap and trade instruments);
  • participation (eg new litigation pathways and collaborative environmental water transactions);
  • groundwater and policy mixes (eg enhancing adaptive capacity and managing cumulative impacts); and
  • developing northern Australia (eg infrastructure, strategic planning and engagement of Indigenous peoples).

The Introduction to this Special Issue – Rethinking Australian Water Law and Governance: Successes, Challenges and Future Directions provides a brief overview of each article featured:

  • National Water Initiative styled water entitlements as property: Legal and practical perspectives (Janice Gray and Louise Lee)
  • Governing water markets: Achievements, limitations and the need for regulatory reform (Cameron Holley and Darren Sinclair)
  • Public participation, litigation and adjudicative procedure in water resources management (Bruce Lindsay)
  • Reimagining water buybacks in Australia: Non-governmental organisations, complementary initiatives and private capital (Katherine Owens)
  • Broadening regulatory concepts and responses to cumulative impacts: Considering the trajectory and future of groundwater law and policy (Rebecca Nelson)
  • Water law reform in the face of climate change: Learning from drought in Australia and the western United States (Barbara Cosens)
  • Creating the next generation of water governance (Paul Martin)
  • Australia, wet or dry, north or south: Addressing environmental impacts and the exclusion of Aboriginal peoples in northern water development (Lily O’Neill, Lee Godden, Elizabeth Macpherson and Erin O’Donnell)

Click here for further information about the Environmental and Planning Law Journal or here to obtain a copy of this Special Issue.

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