Programme  OS2a Trade and globalisation  abstract 148

Community impacts of water markets in Australia's Murray Darling Basin: implications for social sustainability

Author(s): Jane Edwards, Brian Cheers,Henning Bjornlund, Geoff Kuehne
Cheers Brian. Director Centre for Rural Health and Community Development Bjornlund Henning. Associate Professor, Centre for Regulation and Market Analyis, University of South Australia Kuehne Geoff, PhD student, Centre for Regulation and Market Analyis,


Article: abs148_article.doc
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Session: OS2a Trade and globalisation
AbstractIntroduction: It

has become apparent that the resources of the Murray Darling Basin, Australia's main river system are

overstretched. Consumptive use of water, including irrigation for agriculture, has harmed the ecology of the system

by taking too much water from it. To redress this unsustainable practice, a National Water Reform Framework was

introduced in 1994 to adjudicate competing claims for water. A primary mechanism of the framework is the

establishment of water markets. The rationale is that by treating water as a marketable commodity it will be directed

to efficient and productive users and that a large number of of inefficient, unproductive users will leave


Objectives: To examine the experience of water markets on rural communities and to consider the

implications for community sustainability. Specifically, this paper examines whether water markets affect the viability

of family farms, hasten population loss from rural areas and negatively impact on the social and economic life of rural


Methods: Semi-structured interviews with key informants in a case-study location. In addition,

secondary data on the case-study site were also analysed.

Results and conclusion: Key informants reported

concerns over the social sustainability of their community due to population loss, dimishing numbers of family-owned

farms contraction of the local economy, depletion of social capital, fewer opportunities for young people and

diminished community capacity. Secondary data support some of the key informants concerns regarding the

sustainability of rural communities. The implications of current water policy for the future of rural communities are


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