The Natural Edge Project The Natural Advantage of Nations Whole System Design Factor 5 Cents and Sustainability Higher Education and Sustainable Development

"In a remarkable shift with far-reaching policy implications, prominent U.S. news organizations are declaring the debate on climate change "over." The over story in Time magazine in March and week coverage by ABC News' "World News Tonight" both acknowledge the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming. As the Time story says, "By any measure, Earth is at the tipping point... Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us."
Worldwatch Institute

The Natural Advantage of Nations (Vol. I): Business Opportunities, Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century


Section 4: Sustainable Cities - the Challenge of the 21st Century

1 Key drivers for change
1.1 Rationale for dams in the past
1.2 Creating a robust foundation and framework for water management
1.3 The Council of Australian Governments Agreements on Water Policy
1.4 The COAG communiqué to develop a National Water Initiative
1.5 A robust separation framework
1.6 Water access entitlements: allocations and use conditions
2 Reference List from the Book
Sample of Resources to Support Chapter 20

Inspiring Case Studies From Down Under

From Around the World
Online Water Databases 
Key Publications
Water Regulatory Frameworks 
Leading Organisations 

This chapter has been developed by The Natural Edge Project (TNEP) Secretariat member, Michael Smith and ANU Senior Lecturer, David Dumeresq. Mentoring, research and assistance was gratefully received from Mike Young and Jim McColl of the Policy and Economic Research Unit, CSIRO Land and Water, Adelaide. We thank them for giving permission to quote and paraphrase their work, upon which much of this chapter is based.



Michael Smith,

TNEP Content Coordiniator

David Dumaresq

Senior Lecturer, ANU
Faculty of Science: School of Resources,

Environment and Society



Mentoring, research and assistance was gratefully

received from Jim McColl and Mike Young.

The World Water Forum has stated that some 2.4 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation, and 1.1 billion people are without access to safe drinking water. Current water management practices and lack of environmental sanitation contribute substantially to water-related diseases. Even in countries where a large part of the population has access to improved water, sanitation and the quality of water resources need improvement. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg in September 2002, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan identified water and sanitation as one of the five key areas in which concrete results were expected.

In 2000, Kofi Annan had already set forth the Millennium Development Goals. These included, in particular, the objective of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015. The International Year of Freshwater was held in 2003, which further helped to publicize the seriousness of these issues. The goal of the Year of Freshwater was to raise awareness about the need to protect and manage fresh water, with the goal of accelerating the implementation of the principles of integrated water resource management. Such action is becoming increasingly urgent.

According to reports, such as that issued by the UN and the Stockholm Environment Institute, by the year 2025 two-thirds of the world's population will be affected by water shortages. The UN, in a separate report, showed that demand for water has doubled in the last 50 years.


Inspiring Case Studies From Down Under

Potter Farmland Plan

Potter Farmland Plan won Jack Speirs from Victoria 's Western Districts the 14th McKell Medal for excellence in natural resource management. Farm management under the Potter Farmland Plan encourages farmers to plant trees and move fence lines to overcome erosion and salinity and improve land quality. Potter farms challenge some traditional farming practices but its real secret is a whole-farm approach to land management. The Potter Plan was an initiative set up in the 1980's to encourage farmers to put the trees back in the ground. It was put the test on 15 farms in Victoria 's Western wool producing districts where salinity, erosion and inefficient land use practices had taken their toll. Fifteen years down the track, the participating land holders are happy and would encourage farmers to 'potter' along with the same idea.

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Great Western turns water into wine

Water recycling has helped a small central Victorian town save money as well as allowing nearby vineyards to expand. The town of Ararat is selling its 'grey water' to five vineyards in the Great Western district in a deal that solves two problems - what to do with waste water and how to boost a water-starved local industry.

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Peter Andrews- Rural Innovator

Australian farmer, Peter Andrews has had extraordinary success in converting degraded, salt-ravaged properties into fertile, drought-resistant pastures. Eminent national and international scientists agree that Peter Andrews potentially has the solution to alleviating the affects of drought on many parts of the Australian landscape. New research on the property of retailer and Andrews backer Gerry Harvey in the Widden Valley confirms that Peter Andrews' 'natural sequence farming' is achieving startling results very cheaply, simply and quickly.

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Urban Water Usage - Adelaide

The CSIRO has indicated Adelaide could become independent of water supplied from the Murray River (currently 40 per cent of Adelaide 's total supply) through careful management and reuse of stormwater. Preliminary work by CSIRO's Urban Water Program shows that the Adelaide Hills could provide water for the city's needs all year round with some to spare. "There is potential to make better use of 168 billion litres per year of rainwater and wastewater currently being lost down city drains and in the sewage system", says Mr Andrew Speers, leader of CSIRO's Urban Water Program.


A CSIRO study shows that new suburbs could disconnect from city drinking water supplies and wastewater collection systems. In another less radical scenario reticulated water supply is maintained and supplemented by domestic rainwater tanks and stormwater collection for commercial users and sports ground watering. In the case of this second model, the study found that it is possible to provide water supply, drainage and sanitation services to a green-fields development in a manner that is both cost neutral in comparison to traditional water servicing and significantly reduces its impact on the total water cycle. Mawson Lakes in South Australia is a model example of water recycling on a large scale in the urban residential setting .

Further Case Studies



From Around the World

Rural Water Usage - Israel

Israel is as a world leader in water management. Since 1984 crop production has increased whilst fresh water used for irrigation has been reduced by 50 per cent .

The Aqueous Solutions chapter from the book Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution ( surveys the growing worldwide scarcity of water and the opportunities for saving it through improved practices in agriculture, landscaping, buildings, industry, rainwater and grey-water recovery, and biological treatment.

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Online Water Databases 

The UNESCO Water Portal

UNESCO States that the UNESCO Water Portal is intended to enhance access to information related to freshwater available on the World Wide Web. The site provides links to the current UNESCO and UNESCO-led programmes on freshwater and will serve as an interactive point for sharing, browsing and searching websites of water-related organizations, government bodies and NGOs, including a range of categories such as water links, water events, learning modules and other on-line resources.

View Website | Further Links


The International Hydrological Programme (IHP)

UNESCO's intergovernmental scientific co-operative programme in water resources, is a vehicle through which Member States can upgrade their knowledge of the water cycle and thereby increase their capacity to better manage and develop their water resources. It aims at the improvement of the scientific and technological basis for the development of methods for the rational management of water resources, including the protection of the environment.

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Rural Water Management

The inland waters web site aims to promote, support and implement conservation and ecologically sustainable use of Australia 's inland waters. Inland waters include rivers and streams, wetlands, natural and artificial lakes, water storages, groundwater, and groundwater dependent ecosystems.

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National Urban Water Efficiency

There are growing pressures upon urban water supplies, influenced by factors including increasing urban populations and the recurrence of droughts. All levels of government, industry and households need to examine their potential role in conserving urban water resources. The Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage recognises the benefits of a national approach to conserving Australia 's urban water resources and is developing programs that aim to promote improvement in this area

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Key Publications

UN World Water Development Report: Water for People, Water for Life.

Paris , New York and Oxford , UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and Berghahn Books.


The World Water Development Report (WWDR) is a periodic, comprehensive review giving an authoritative picture of the state of the world's freshwater resources, and aiming to provide decision-makers with the tools for sustainable use of our water. Coordinated by the World Water Assessment Programme, the Report is the result of the collaboration of twenty-three UN agencies and convention secretariats and lays the foundations for regular, system-wide monitoring and reporting by the UN, together with development of standardized methodologies and data.

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This report has been endorsed by a significant number of organizations

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Water and Security: International conference 'Water: A Catalyst for Peace'

The second international conference of the UNESCO-IHP/WWAP programme dedicated to shared waters, From Potential Conflict to Cooperation Potential (PCCP), is to take place from the 6 to the 8 of October 2004 in Zaragoza , Spain . The participants will be initiated into cooperative basin management and conflict resolution. You can now access the detailed programme and register online.

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Are More Dams the Answer? No, says the World Commission on Dams.

The WCD was an independent, international, multi-stakeholder process which addressed the controversial issues associated with large dams. It provided a unique opportunity to bring into focus the many assumptions and paradigms that are at the centre of the search to reconcile economic growth, social equity, environmental conservation and political participation in the changing global context.

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Excerpts from the "Introduction" to the new Citizens' Guide to the World Commission on Dams

"Continuing to plan and build dams as they have always been planned and built, the WCD says, is unacceptable. Instead, the WCD recommends a new approach to decision-making based on the principles of equity, efficiency, participatory decision-making, sustainability and accountability. The WCD's guidelines and recommendations are extraordinarily useful to academics, activists, professionals and government officials who are interested in promoting a new model for making decisions about development."

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The Value of Demand Management for Water Utilities

In the last two decades whole system cost analysis has shown there are far more benefits for water efficiency than previously imagined. Briefly, water infrastructure assets for any nation cost a significant amount. Reducing the need for construction of new dams, new treatment plants, reducing the maintenance of the pipes and associated infrastructure to deliver and remove water can make significant cost savings. But current regulatory frameworks in many countries for many water utilities mean that such utilities earn more for the more water they sell. Instead simple regulation can be put in place to reward water utilities for selling less water. By stipulating by law that water utilities will earn 15% of the cost savings that they are able to help their customers save, overnight water utilities will embrace water demand management.

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Valuing Decentralized Wastewater Technologies: A Catalogue of Benefits, Costs, and Economic Analysis Techniques. This report was prepared for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It reviews the full range of benefits and costs of decentralized wastewater systems relative to conventional centralized systems, and discusses techniques for valuation of the economic benefits of decentralized systems (November 2004) This study is intended to help "level the playing field" in the analysis of centralized and decentralized options for providing wastewater services.

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The Value of Biological Treatment of Wastewater - John Todd

John Todd from 1986 to 2000, invented a series of "living" technologies and patented them for the purification of water, sewage, lakes, rivers, etc. They came out in a wave with different names: "Solar Aquatics"- all sunlight based, all ecologically diverse, using the power of plants, flowers, fish, micro-organisms to work in a designed environment to take polluted water and purify it. Next, we developed "Living Machines" that incorporated into their design Ecological Fluidized Beds, that helped transform and purify water. Then came, "Restorers", which are floating technologies to be placed in placed in contaminated water bodies through which water flows through and is purified. They provide often cheaper systems to conventional mechanical and chemical forms of water purification and treatment.

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The Value of Treated Effluent for Forest Plantations

Partly as a response to toxic blue green algae outbreaks in the Murray Darling system, urgent research was commissioned into the disposal of town effluent. CSIRO Land and Water and CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products have used their experience over seven years at Flushing Meadows (no, we are not kidding but you can also call it the award winning Wagga Wagga Effluent Plantation) to produce guidelines for environmental councils, irrigators and foresters on the sustainable use of effluent in forestry. Additional benefits - aside from more trees and less pollutants - there is the significant greenhouse gas savings from the production of chemical fertilisers. Organic recycling and effluent recycling are Greenhouse issues. It takes 30Gj of energy to make one tonne of artificial ammonia. If you want the 293 page guidelines, you'll have to pay - but the site has much of interest on the experiment and can be a useful starting point for an exploration of effluent and water quality issues generally.

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Water Regulatory Frameworks 

The Barton Group's Australian Water Initiative

An initiative of the Barton Group, the Australian Water Industry (AWI) Roadmap is a collaborative project involving key partners from industry, Government and community groups. It encompasses the breadth of water issues including delivery, security, trading, supply and treatment across all of Australia 's geographical regions. The Barton Group and its project partners believe it is in the national interest to reposition the water industry as a sustainable entity by harnessing innovation, knowledge and best practices to improve both water security and environmental outcomes. The time has come to move quickly and boldly to solve a set of urgent water allocation, management and infrastructure problems. The AWI Roadmap is the result of research and consultation with over 300 stakeholders in every State and Territory who participated in workshops and responded to a discussion paper. These included industry suppliers, technology and service providers, together with infrastructure and utility managers, environmental specialists, academics, Government representatives and major water users.

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Regulatory Frameworks to Encourage Demand Management

Professor Stuart White from UTS in Australia is playing a leading role globally in promoting the benefits of demand management to water utilities and regulatory reform in this area.

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The Wentworth Group

Eleven Australian environmental scientists have formed the Wentworth Group. The group has proposed common sense reforms designed to deliver sustainable agricultural and land management solutions to Australia . "Robust Separation: A search for a generic framework to simplify registration and trading of interests in natural resources." Young,M, McColl, J. CSIRO Land and Water. Professor Mike Young from CSIRO stated, 'The environment is the cruellest of all the things we have, crueller than the market place. It responds very slowly. The water system, particularly the ground water and the way it flows through into the rivers, has lags of 20 or 30 years and we were ignorant about that and if you don't put the environment first, and the biophysical reality of the way rivers work, ultimately it delivers the disasters we're now seeing and they just get worse and worse. So, if you postpone [addressing issues related to] the environment, it bites you harder so I would put integrity [of the environment] first and designing systems that aren't ignorant, and deal with problems as they emerge. That's tough, but if we don't do that, we end up with the problems we now have and if we don't deal with them now, they get worse and worse and worse until finally we have a drain and we have massive severe problems

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A New Model for Landscape Conservation in New South Wales - Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists Report to Premier Carr Feb 2003

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Blueprint for a Living Continent - A report from the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists Nov 2002

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CSIRO's ECOS magazine link to articles on the Wentworth Group

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Other CSIRO Papers of Interest

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Other CSIRO Interviews of Interest

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ABARE Publications

One of Australia 's leading economic research bodies, ABARE, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, is a major participant in the national debate over policies and priorities to manage Australia 's water resources.

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Australian Productivity Commission's papers

Australia 's Productivity Commission ha s also undertaken a suite of research related to water reform, including the effects of expanding water trade. Links to these papers are included below:


Modelling Water Trade in the Southern Murray-Darling Basin by Deborah Peterson, Gavin Dwyer, David Appels and Jane Fry was released on 19 November 2004. The competing demands for Australia's water resources from agricultural, environmental, household and recreational users create a complex, and often conflicting, policy environment. This paper models the regional effects of expanding trade of irrigation water in Australia's southern Murray-Darling Basin. It finds that m arkets for trading irrigation water enable water to be re-allocated to more productive uses - with gains to buyers and sellers. It also finds that water trade can also lessen the impact of reductions in irrigation water availability.

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Responsiveness of Demand for Irrigation Water: A Focus on the Southern Murray-Darling Basin by David Appels, Robert Douglas and Gavin Dwyer

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Water Rights Arrangements in Australia and Overseas

The objective of this study is to compare Australia's water rights arrangements (established under the COAG framework) with arrangements in selected overseas countries against best practice principles. Twelve case studies were prepared to assist the understanding of the complex legal, organisational and management arrangements of the jurisdictions studied. Case studies were prepared for the Murray-Darling Basin , New South Wales , Victoria , Queensland , South Australia , Australian Capital Territory , Colorado River Basin , California , Colorado , Chile , Mexico and South Africa . These case studies should be read in conjunction with the main report The paper compares the legal, organisational and regulatory arrangements for managing water rights, against accepted best practice principles. It reveals significant differences among the benchmarked jurisdictions in the way that water rights are defined, allocated, regulated and administered. In some jurisdictions, water rights are the personal property of water users; in others, they are vested in the State. Such differences have implications for both the management of water rights and the efficiency of resource allocation.

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Is water a right or a commodity?

Reclaiming Public Water.Achievements, Struggles and Visions from Around the World Edited by Belén Balanyá, Brid Brennan, Olivier Hoedeman, Satoko Kishimoto and Philipp Terhorst Transnational Institute and Corporate Europe Observatory, January 2005 (1rst edition) March 2005 (2nd edition)

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Leading Organisations 

The UNESCO Water Portal

UNESCO States that the UNESCO Water Portal is intended to enhance access to information related to freshwater available on the World Wide Web. The site provides links to the current UNESCO and UNESCO-led programmes on freshwater and will serve as an interactive point for sharing, browsing and searching websites of water-related organizations, government bodies and NGOs, including a range of categories such as water links, water events, learning modules and other on-line resources.

Further Links



CSIRO provides a remarkable array of expertise on water issues.

View CSIRO Land and Water's website

The Wentworth Group

Blueprint for a National Water Plan -a report from the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists 31 July

View PDF


The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)

The RMI web site provides multi-disciplinary solutions to these pressing water issues and water efficiency, urban design measures that can save communities millions by preventing the need for more dams.

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References from the Book

1 The background to future water problems at the global level is described in such books as Gleick, P. (1993) Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World's Fresh Water Resources, Stockholm Environment Institute, Sweden; Postel, S. (1984) Water: Rethinking Management in Age of Scarcity, Worldwatch Paper 62, Worldwatch Institute, Washington, DC; Raskin P., Hansen, E. and Margolis, R. (1996) 'Water and Sustainability, Global Patterns and Long-Range Problems', Natural Resources Forum, vol 20, no 1, pp1-17.


2 UN/WWAP (United Nations/World Water Assessment Programme) (2003) UN World Water Development Report: Water for People, UN/WWAP, Water for Life, UNESCO and Berghahn Books, Paris , New York and Oxford . Coordinated by the World Water Assessment Programme, the report is the result of the collaboration of 23 UN agencies and convention secretariats.


3 World Commission on Dams (2000) Dams and Development: A New Framework for Decision-making, The Report of the World Commission on Dams, Earthscan, London .


4 Ibid.


5 The Sydney 'Every Drop Counts' project offers subsidized appliances to householders including not only the expected efficient showerheads but also rainwater tanks and mulchers. Rocky Mountain Institute pioneered many studies on water management issues in the 1980s, material available on the RMI website.


6 Weaver, P., Jansen, J., van Grootveld, G., van Spiegel, E. and Vergragt, P. (2000) Sustainable Technology Development, Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield , UK , p151.


7 Booker, N., Gray, S., Mitchell, G., Priestley, A., Shipton, R., Speers, A., Young, M. and Syme, G. (2000) 'CSIRO Australia Sustainable Alternatives in the Provision of Urban Water Services: An Australian Approach', paper submitted to IWRAs 5th World Water Congress, International Water Resources Association, Melbourne.


8 Speers, A., Booker, N., Burn, S., Gray, S., Priestly, T. and Zappou, C. (2001) Sustainable Urban Water-Analysis of the Opportunities, CSIRO, IWRA's 6th National Water Conference, Melbourne, Australia.


9 de Blas, A. (2001) 'Can Adelaide Survive without the Murray', Interview ABC Earthbeat, broadcast on Saturday 15 December.


10 Another of the biggest drivers for change this century will come from the need to avoid conflict and ensure water security. There are 261 watersheds that cross the political boundaries of two or more countries. Michael Klare in his classic book (Klare, M. (2001) Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict, Henry Holt Books, New York) outlines this in detail; hence we will not cover it here.


11 Clearly this varies from country to country.


12 Postel, S. (1999) Pillar of Sand: Can the Irrigation Miracle Last?, Environmental Alert Series, CSIRO, Australian Conservation Foundation.


13 IEA (International Energy Agency) (1998) Key World Energy Statistics, IEA.


14 NSW owns all the Tumut; 50/50, for the Murray between the states of Vic and NSW; the Murrumbidgee passes through both NSW and ACT.


15 Bevitt, R., Erskine, W., Gillespie, G., Harris, J., Lake, P., Miners, B. and Varley, I. (1998) Expert Panel Environmental Flow Assessment of Various Rivers Affected by the Snowy Mountain Scheme, Report to the NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation.


16 There have been calls for more dams in Australia. However, since the Snowy scheme already captures 99 per cent of the water in the Snowy catchment, a new dam would actually lose more water through evaporation than it could possibly additionally collect.


17 See for further information on this topic.


18 Bevitt, R., Erskine, W., Gillespie, G., Harris, J., Lake, P., Miners, B. and Varley, I. (1998) Expert Panel Environmental Flow Assessment of Various Rivers Affected by the Snowy Mountain Scheme, Report to the NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation.


19 Ibid.


20 Snowy Water Licence issued Under Part 5 of the Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act 1997 in New South Wales, Australia.


21 ANCID (Australian National Committee on Irrigation and Drainage) (2000) Open Channel Seepage and Control: Current Knowledge of Channel Seepage Issues & Measurement in the Australian Rural Water Industry Goulburn-Murray Water, ANCID, Victoria.


22 Megalogenis, G. (2003) 'We Sink or Swim on Liquid Licence', The Australian, 10 November.


23 Three of these generators just spin as back up generators so that they can respond to a major failure in the eastern seaboard grid within 28 seconds. The three spinning generators, at 750 tonnes each, also act as the alternators for the grid, ensuring that the frequency stays within a certain margin of cycles per second. As loads go on and off the grid, the voltage changes. In condenser mode those three rotors can either draw power off the grid or add power to the grid to keep the voltage within an acceptable range. These generators can black start the grid of the entire eastern seaboard for 40 hours if they have to.


24 ABC 4 Corners Reporter Ticky Fullerton interviews Professor Mike Young, CSIRO

economist and member of the Wentworth Group on 15 June 2003 near Tailem Bend, SA.


25 Ibid.


26 Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council (2002) The Living Murray: A Discussion Paper on Restoring the Health of the River Murray, Murray-Darling Basin Commission, Canberra.


27 ABC 4 Corners Reporter Ticky Fullerton interviews Professor Mike Young, CSIRO

economist and member of the Wentworth Group on 15 June 2003 near Tailem Bend, SA.


28 Young, M., Young, D., Hamilton, A. and Bright, M. (2002) A Preliminary Assessment of the Economic and Social Implications of Environmental Flow Scenarios for the River Murray System, report prepared for Murray Darling Basin Commission, Policy and Economic Research Unit,



29 ABC Earthbeat interview with Alexandra de Blas (2003) with Professor Mike Young,

Director Policy & Economic Research Unit, CSIRO Land & Water, Dr John Langford,

Executive Director Water Services Association of Australia, and Dr Poh-Ling Tan, Senior Law Lecturer, Queensland University of Technology.


30 We will provide a succinct overview, but for those interested in the detail, Young and McColl's CSIRO papers will be linked on this page.


31 This is a transcript from The World Today. The programme is broadcast around Australia at 12:10pm on ABC Local Radio.


32 World Bank (2003) World Bank Development Report 2003: Sustainable Development in a Dynamic World, Oxford University Press, Oxford.


33 ABC 4 Corners Reporter Ticky Fullerton interviews Professor Mike Young, CSIRO

economist and member of the Wentworth Group on 15 June 2003 near Tailem Bend, SA.


34 Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists (2002) Blueprint for a Living Continent: A Way Forward, Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, World Wide Fund for Nature.


35 Beare, S., Bell, R. and Fisher, B. (1998) 'Determining the Value of Water: The Role of Risk, Infrastructure Constraints and Ownership', American Journal of Agricultural Economics, vol 80, no 5, December.


36 Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists (2002) Blueprint for a Living Continent: A Way Forward, Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, World Wide Fund for Nature.


37 Young, M. and McColl, J. (2002) Robust Separation: A Search for a Generic Framework to Simplify Registration and Trading of Interests in Natural Resources, CSIRO Land and Water, Adelaide.


38 ECOS magazine, September 2003.


39 Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists (2002) Blueprint for a Living Continent: A Way Forward, Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, World Wide Fund for Nature.


40 NRMMC (Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council) (2003) Report to the Council of Australian Governments, NRMMC, Chief Executive Officers Group on Water, April.