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Central Ranges

Water:  Sustainable water resource management

High Priority

What is this issue

Increasing pressure on water resources and change in hydrology affecting aquatic habitats.

Impacts of the issue

Decrease in environmental flows, resulting in decline in condition of aquatic habitat and loss of aquatic species. 


  • Extraction of water for stock and domestic, irrigation and industrial uses
  • Population growth, development
  • Climate variability
  • Loss of flows due to on-stream dams and other barriers


  • Big dams
  • Over-allocated water at the time of prescription, and already administered a reduction through the use of the Water Allocation Plans (WAP) based on earlier data
  • No follow-up or compliance with licence conditions e.g. low-flow-by-passes
  • Dilemma of who pays for installation of low-flow-by-passes
  • Western and Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges WAPs currently delaying implementation of low-flow-by-pass in the region
  • Wine industry under financial strain
  • WAP is based on historical data. There is no modelling of climate change impacts, and changes may be occurring faster than the five year review will identify.

Climate impacts and adaptation needs

Rainfall and water availability is expected to decline under climate change, further increasing pressure on water resources, reducing stream flow, connectivity and condition of aquatic habitats.

Who plays a role

  • 'Champion' landholders
  • Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources 
  • Industry groups
  • Innovators
  • Landholders
  • Researchers
  • SA Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board
  • SA Water

Strategies and Actions

Undertake water management planning to ensure the sustainable use of water resources and deliver low flows to the environment

  • Implement current Water Allocation Plan policies to return low flows in high priority catchments
  • Identify critical thresholds and triggers to inform transparent decision-making
  • Strategic direction for linking Water Allocation Planning outcomes for the environment with habitat restoration work for fish populations
  • Prioritise allocations of available water supplies to 'essential' industries, efficient water users and the environment
  • Review the Water Allocation Plan with respect to compliance with the Basin Plan, future climate scenarios and policy reviews, and the application of precautionary principles
  • Raise community awareness of the value of water dependent ecosystems in delivering ecosystem services, and the benefits of returning low flows to the environment
  • Showcase landholders who apply best practice in the management of aquatic environments

Manage pressures to fish populations

  • Advocate for dedicated resources to deliver threatened fish recovery projects
  • Establish off-site, captive populations of native fish during times of poor seasonal conditions to insure against loss

Support research and monitoring to improve the sustainable use of water resources

  • Improve public access to environmental data, such as water flow, quality, and aquatic ecosystem health (including data collected by the community)
  • Develop an inventory of water dependant ecosystems and specific pressures to inform locally relevant triggers and actions
  • Continue to investigate innovative methods for delivering low flows
  • Investigate the outcomes of returning low flows to inform adaptive management of aquatic systems