Uncertainty Quantification Crucial in National Water Agreement

The Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water are seeking feedback on a future national water agreement.

The establishment of the National Water Initiative (NWI) in 2004 represented a significant milestone, fostering agreement among the Commonwealth, states, and territories to enhance water resource planning and management across Australia, emphasising efficiency, transparency, and sustainability.

Though the NWI has played a crucial role, there have been many changes over the last two decades. A new intergovernmental agreement on water is therefore proposed, aimed at building upon the NWI’s sturdy framework to address emerging water management challenges.

DARE Director and leading hydrologist at the University of Sydney, Willem Vervoort, commented that, “Water management remains one of the most contentious issues in Australia, and the increased variability in wet and dry periods resulting from climate change is only making this harder.”

Water management can easily lead to conflict between stakeholders as it involves uncertain and complex predictions of water availability.

The National Water Agreement is an important step and will be one of the great achievements in Australian water management in the last decade.

It is therefore imperative that this agreement is renewed and updated to address new challenges, such as recognising First Nations interests and the need to protect the environment under a rapidly changing climate.

In his detailed feedback of the proposed agreement, Willem shares:

“The most important element of the National Water Agreement is that the States commit to a national approach. The State level management of water is a remnant of the colonial era and ignores the fact that water, a national natural resource, crosses many boundaries.”

Among other suggestions, Willem highlights the need for uncertainty quantification to aid in understanding the limitations of simulation models and data.

“Given the complexity of Australia’s water catchments, the high climate variability and the potential errors in measurements, improvements in the quantification of uncertainties are crucial to develop trust in science-based decisions.”

Read DARE’s full response to the National Water Agreement here.