Water reform news, insights from the Colorado River and conserving platypus populations
Welcome to the 5th edition of the UNSW GWI newsletter for 2020. As we take tentative steps to return to classrooms, offices and businesses, attention is shifting back to the issue of water reform in Australia; particularly on how water markets in the Murray Darling Basin are working and the implementation of remaining National Water Reform Initiatives. Recent analysis of government data suggests that benefits of water purchased to restore environmental flows have been offset by increased extractions due to subsidised irrigation infrastructure. The findings were published at the beginning of May in a paper by Sarah Wheeler from the University of Adelaide with Richard Kingsford from the Centre of Ecosystem Science, Quentin Grafton from the Australian National University and Emma Carmody from the Environmental Defenders Office. The analysis infers that government interventions are working at cross purposes and not restoring environmental flows in the basin as intended. The month concluded with an announcement by the Productivity Commission of an inquiry into progress on national water reform. One area of the inquiry will be an evaluation of how NWI reforms have supported commonwealth and state governments’ responses to current and future water management challenges including climate change, population growth and extreme events. Of course these water management challenges are not unique to Australia, so the May edition of the Global Water Matters Podcast focused on the state of the Colorado river and featured Anne Castle, former Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of the Interior in the Obama administration. The podcast followed a report on the effects of climate change of inflow into the Colorado and explores multiple issues associated with the management of the river including accommodating voices of Native Americans, balancing requirements between agriculture and cities and restoring environmental flows to the Sea of Cortez. It is a very compelling and entertaining podcast. The next edition of the Global Water Matters Podcast will put the focus back on water reforms in Australia and will feature Productivity Commissioner Jane Doolan.
In other news, we are pleased announce our support of a new conference on the technical, economic, environmental and human rights issues of the expanding role of lithium in energy storage. The conference is a joint effort with colleagues at the Australian Research Council Research Hub for Integrated Energy Storage Solutions, Deakin University and Monash University.
This month’s PhD student profile features Tahneal Hawke, an important member of the Centre for Ecosystem Science, who is working on understanding the effects of climate change and river regulations on the ecology and movement of Australia’s iconic native animal the platypus. Finally, we would like to draw your attention to a new Water Science Policy blog launched this month, and the release of two new policy briefs by the International Water Resources Association.
I hope that you enjoy this newsletter and thanks again for your continued interest and support.
Prof Greg Leslie
Director, UNSW Global Water Institute
Latest News
Subsidies drive Murray-Darling Basin extractions as environment loses
The Australian Government’s $4 billion irrigation efficiency program has led to irrigators who received irrigation infrastructure subsidies extracting up to 28 per cent more water in the Murray-Darling Basin than those who did not receive any funds – affecting the environment and other users, new research has found.
Productivity Commission to review National Water Initiative
The Government this week announced a productivity commission inquiry into national water policy to assess whether governments have been successful in achieving the objectives, outcomes and timelines of reform ideas proposed under the National Water Initiative. The commission is seeking feedback on a range of issues with submissions due in by 21 August. 
Global Water Matters Podcast Episode 2: Insights from the Colorado River
The second episode of the GWI Global Water Matters podcast features Anne Castle, member of the Water Policy Group and Senior Fellow at the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment at the University of Colorado. In conversation with producer Gretchen Miller, Anne discusses the management and future of the over-allocated Colorado River Basin and its many competing interests - and what it was like to meet Barack Obama during her time as Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at the U.S Department of Interior.
New Water Science Policy blog calls for submissions
A new Water Science Policy blog was launched in May to connect the work of academia and the research community with the opinions of practitioners in the field of water and water-related issues. If you have exciting research or insights to share, contributions are being accepted through the website. 
New IWRA policy briefs available to read
The International Water Resources Association has just published two new policy briefs, now available for public consumption. The topics are ''Flood-Resilient Cities Start at Home', and 'Water Security and the Sustainable Development Goals.'
In Profile
Introducing Tahneal Hawke, PhD Candidate
Despite its popularity, the population of the platypus—which is native to Australia’s eastern rivers—is steadily declining, and the threat of extinction becoming more real by the day. One of the UNSW researchers working to gain a better understanding of the plight of the platypus is PhD Candidate Tahneal Hawke. Supervised by renowned conservation experts Professor Richard Kingsford and Dr Gilad Bino, Tahneal is assessing the long-term declines in platypus abundance and distribution, and exploring how the species may be impacted by river regulation.
Coming Up
2020 Symposium on Lithium Supply Chain
The 2020 Symposium on Lithium Supply Chain for a Green and Mobile Energy Future will be held at the UNSW Sydney CBD Campus on Thursday 19 - Friday 20 November 2020. Sponsored by the UNSW Global Water Institute, the two-day event will feature a series of presentations, discussions and workshops based on the most critical of lithium supply chain topics.
Global Water Matters Podcast Episode 3: Water Reform in 2020
The third episode of the GWI Global Water Matters podcast will feature Jane Doolan, Water Policy Group member and Commissioner with the Productivity Commission since December 2016.  In this podcast, Jane will discuss her work as Commissioner on the second inquiry into National Water Reform that is currently underway.
Want more?
Read past issues of the UNSW Global Water Institute Newsletter in our website archive.
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