Oral Presentation 9th Australian Stream Management Conference 2018

“Does anyone here speak water-ish?” – How the benefits of environmental flows get lost in translation (#62)

Sarina Loo 1
  1. Victorian Environmental Water Holder, East Melbourne, VICTORIA, Australia

Research commissioned by the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH) in Australia has found strong evidence that the language and complexity of water management is excluding communities from understanding what environmental flows are and their benefits. A statewide market research project has confirmed startling levels of misunderstanding that stem from impenetrable water language.

As the second driest continent on earth, Australia’s use of water is a key matter of public interest which will only grow in importance as climate change progresses. Modelling now predicts that streamflows could reduce by around 50 per cent in some Victorian catchments by 2065. This has serious consequences for everyone - households, industry, agriculture, recreation, cultural values, native plants and wildlife. Scrutiny of the management and value of environmental watering is only expected to increase.

To help increase public acceptance of water for the environment, it will be essential to first increase levels of water literacy. Knowledge of water management and personal use of waterways can also increase support for water for the environment. The VEWH aims to meet public need by improving the transparency around its decision-making and providing clearer, more accessible information about the rationale and benefits of environmental watering. To be successful, it argues, the water industry needs to break down potential verbal and intellectual barriers, simplify its management concepts and speak to people in language they understand.

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