2009 – Balancing the benefits of irrigation storages – a case study

Shane Papworth, Stuart Richardson, David Dreverman, Mel Jackson

A prominent element of the operational environment of a dam is its interaction with the community.The management of public recreational use of irrigation storages is an increasing challenge for Goulburn-Murray Water and the Murray Darling Basin Authority. The upper Murray storages have been significantly affected by the unprecedented low water resource availability which has caused an increasing conflict between the primary use of the dam to supply irrigation water and the secondary benefit of recreation and tourism use by the local communities. Many difficult management issues (media, community relations, political interest) arise from the local community, rather than just from operation of the dam itself.

An increasing awareness of the dire water resource position in recent years has coincided with an ever increasing appreciation of the environmental and social impacts of recreational use. For the storages along the Murray system, effective management is further complicated by complex agency and authority responsibilities, communities and interest groups effectively ‘in competition’ for the water resource.

To better manage these issues, ‘Land and On-Water Management Plans’ have been developed for Lake Mulwala and Lake Hume. Developing the Plans has not been without controversy, but ultimately the Plans have proved to be a simple and successful means of planning for and achieving agreed land and water management outcomes. This in turn is fostering a positive spirit of cooperation and communication with communities currently under considerable stress as a result of prolonged drought.

This paper describes the process, pitfalls and learnings to come out of the development of the Land and On-Water Management Plans.

Key words: Environment, community, irrigation dams, recreational use, planning

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