Climate change and water management are two of the most important public policy issues facing Australia.
Adding to existing water management challenges is the fact that climate change, and policies aimed at mitigating and adapting to climate change, can strongly affect water management outcomes. The National Water Commission’s 2011 biennial assessment of progress under the National Water Initiative pointed to the interactions between water and climate change, suggesting that policies and investment decisions involving climate change, energy and water are intrinsically entwined (NWC 2011a). The Commission recommended that it would be prudent to analyse the interactions between climate change and water in one of 12 headline recommendations made in the assessment.
This report responds to that need. Its specific objectives are to: better understand the interactions between water policy and climate change policy assess the likely location, timing and materiality of climate change impacts on water resources, water infrastructure and services assess whether Australia’s water policy settings are sufficiently robust to deal with the potential implications of climate change mitigation policies and adaptation responses assess whether current water policy settings have implications for the implementation of climate change policy inform further water policy development and implementation.
To meet those objectives, a comprehensive assessment of the interactions between climate change policy and water policy was undertaken across seven key sectors that supply water, use water or otherwise affect water policy (urban water, rural water, the environment, agriculture, electricity generation, forestry and mining). An overview of the approach and outcomes is illustrated in Figure 1 below.
This framework has been applied to identify and assess the potential impacts on water resources and service provision of: climate change mitigation policies or actions designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions climate change adaptation policies or actions designed to better manage the impacts and/or risks associated with climate change that has already occurred and will continue regardless of short- to medium-term mitigation efforts. The assessment has drawn mainly on existing studies and modelling, but also on consultations with key government and industry stakeholders.