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2007 August - Water Policy Reform - Will it Perform

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FPJ0403 Article - What will be the value of environmental benefits arising from water reform

Keogh, M
Farm Policy Journal, August 2007, Volume 4, Number 3, pp. 25 - 36 (12 pages)



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Estimating the Value of Environmental Services Provided by Australian Farmers

For some time the Australian agricultural sector has been subject to considerable public criticism about  the impact of some industry practices on the environment. Issues of concern have included loss of biodiversity, diminishing water quality, reduced water availability, and increased soil erosion and salinisation.

However, over recent decades there have been signifi  cant changes implemented to many farm management systems, which have resulted in improved environmental and productivity outcomes. These changes have included introducing deep-rooted perennial pastures, extensive tree planting, fencing off riparian zones, the adoption of best-management practice systems, and the retention of areas of natural vegetation. Changes
have been stimulated by a range of different factors including government regulations, incentive programs, government grants and market-based instruments.

The improved environmental outcomes arising from these changes are of great importance to both the sector and the wider community, although generally go unnoticed. In part this is due to the propensity for bad news to gain more attention than good news, but it is also partly due to the fact that improved environmental outcomes are a public good that is usually not marketed or valued economically.

Developing robust methodologies to establish the value of enhanced environmental outcomes from agriculture is an important step that will assist increased community recognition of positive change, and is also a necessary step in developing future natural resource policy priorities.

The research reported here provides a detailed examination of this issue, and uses case studies to highlight the value that changes in farmers natural resource management practices have delivered to the Australian community. The research also highlights the opportunity that exists for governments to increase the value of farm environmental services provided for the community, if appropriate policies and incentives are implemented.

Full Report
June 2008, pp. 1 - 91 (91 pages)
Publisher: Australian Farm Institute
Author: Gillespie, R
ISBN: 978-0-9803460-8-4


Farm Policy Journal - Vol 3 No 2 2006 May - Full Journal

Drought - developing policy before the inevitable dry
May Quarter 2006, Volume 3, Number 2
Publisher - Australian Farm Institute


Making Decisions About Environmental Water Allocations

There are major changes underway in the management of water in Australia, with one of the most significant being the ownership of water entitlements by the environment. When announced water buy-back programs are completed and promised water infrastructure investments are implemented, the environment will be the sole largest holder of water entitlements in Australia, and that water will be used to restore or improve ecological processes and environmental assets associated with Australia’s major inland rivers.

How that water will be managed; who will be responsible for making decisions about it; how the general community will be able to monitor how well that water is being used; and who will decide whether the environment is receiving sufficient water, are all questions that are yet to be answered. The decisions that will need to be made are complex, because they incorporate both economic (attempting to ascribe economic values to outcomes that can be achieved from alternative uses of water) and scientific (how much water is needed to achieve desired environmental outcomes) elements, and both have considerable uncertainty.

The research project was initiated by the Australian Farm Institute to advance discussion on these questions, and to identify some preferred options for the future management of environmental water in Australia. Given that the Australian public will, in future, be the owners of water assets valued in excess of $3 billion, it is important to make sure these assets are managed in a way that maximises the return from them, while at the same time enabling irrigated agriculture to continue to make a large contribution to national economic output.

The aim of the research reported here was to utilise the knowledge of experts who have extensive experience in water policy issues to further develop thinking on how decisions about allocating water to the environment should be made. This is important not only to ensure environmental water is used effectively, but also because the same decision-making framework will be used to decide how much water will in future be available for irrigated agriculture. Each of the four experts responded in quite different ways to each of the questions posed.

Making decisions about environmental water allocations
is a report stemming from the collective work of two economists - Professor Jeff Bennett and Professor Mike Young - and two environmental scientists - Professor Richard Kingsford and Professor Richard Norris.

How that water will be managed; who will be responsible for making decisions about it; how the general community will be able to monitor how well that water is being used; and who will decide whether the environment is receiving sufficient water, are all questions addressed in this report.

Full Report
June 2010, pp. 1-80 (80 pages)
Publisher: Australian Farm Institute
Authors: Bennett, J, Kingsford, RT, Norris, RH & Young, M
ISBN 978-1-921808-00-5 (Web)
ISBN 978-0-9806912-9-0 (Print)


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