Commonwealth Environmental Water Office banner

How is Commonwealth environmental water being managed?

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) is required to use its holdings to protect or restore environmental assets of the Murray-Darling Basin, and other areas outside the Basin where the Commonwealth holds water, so as to give effect to relevant international agreements.

Water that is held in the Basin is required to be managed in accordance with the environmental watering plan, which is part of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan developed by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

 Andrew Lowes (CEWO)

Part of the lower Murrumbidgee catchment in October 2012

Photo: Andrew Lowes (CEWO)

The process of making Commonwealth environmental water available to benefit the environment includes a number of key steps:

  1. Identify and engage
    • Identify watering options in cooperation with state agencies, environmental water managers, local groups (such as catchment management authorities, natural resource management boards and environmental water advisory groups), landholders and the Environmental Water Scientific Advisory Panel.
    • Develop options consistent with the Basin Plan which sets out principles and methods for identifying environmental assets and prioritising use. At any point in time, the options for managing water include delivering it to environmental assets within the current year, carrying over water to future years by leaving it in storage (where possible), or trade of water. Planning documents outlining options for using Commonwealth environmental water are available from our publications webpage.
  2. Assess

    The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office has a framework for determining water use in accordance with the environmental watering plan of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The framework describes the process used to assess potential watering actions against the following criteria:
    • ecological value of the river, floodplain or wetland
    • expected outcomes from watering
    • potential risks of watering
    • long-term sustainability and management of the site
    • cost effectiveness and feasibility of watering.
  3. Decide and deliver

    The CEWH makes decisions on water use throughout the year (1 July - 30 June). Arrangements are made with delivery partners, including river operators, who then manage the delivery of the water.

    Water delivery is actively managed throughout the year based on seasonal, operational and management conditions. For more information about the volume of Commonwealth environmental water delivered across the Basin since 2009 see:
  4. Monitor and report

    Guided by our Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting and Improvement Framework, monitor the outcomes of watering to identify:
    • water was delivered as planned, and immediate environmental responses
    • short-term environmental outcomes (one year)
    • medium- to long-term environmental outcomes (five years).

    Report on outcomes - see our Annual Reports, Outcomes Reports and monitoring reports.