Discussion paper

Coorongs don’t make a right: fraud risks and environmental water in the Murray Darling Basin

Water conservation Conservation Rivers Statutory authorities Murray-Darling Basin

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) manages $3.2 billion worth of environmental water on behalf of taxpayers and the environment. It is responsible for deciding where environmental water should be used in order to maintain the ecological health of nationally and internationally significant wetlands in the Murray Darling Basin.

While the CEWH is responsible for environmental water, it must rely on state governments and their agencies to deliver its water. It also relies on Commonwealth water agencies - the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources - to act in a way that maximises outcomes for CEWH.

However, the priorities of these agencies are not always aligned with CEWH’s objectives. CEWH has no statutory power over them if they choose to act in a way contrary to CEWH’s decisions. The Commonwealth’s water holder is effectively hostage to the state’s water managers.

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