A Voice for our Rivers: How do healthy river basins matter?

Dr. Eva Abal e.abal@uq.edu.au
Chief Scientist
International Water Centre and Great Barrier Reef Foundation Associate Professor Office of the Vice Chancellor The University of Queensland

Why Healthy Rivers?
Paradigm shifts on how we view rivers and waterways
Rivers as source of water Rivers for future generation

Rivers as sewers

Rivers as a lifestyle

service-based Physical actions/infrastructures reactive enabling processes



A Voice for our Rivers: a value proposition
1. The Rationale: Why? 2. The Methodology: How? 3. The Proponents: Who? 4. The Resourcing: How do we fund?

The Outline of the Value Proposition


1: The Rationale: Why?

Rivers provide goods and services to the human population

1: The Rationale: Why?

The total value of the world’s freshwater ecosystem services estimated to be up to 5 trillion annually.
Rivers and lakes contribute majority of that (US$3 Trillion per year).

Value of the world’s freshwater ecosystems. (World Development Report, 2009 and Costanza et al., 1997)

For Asia, total value = ~US$ 1.75 Trillion per year; rivers and lakes contribute majority (US$ 1.0 Trillion per year).

1: The Rationale: Why?

But ~80% of Rivers in Asia-Pacific are not in good condition…

Asian Water Development Outlook – Key Dimension 4

80% 1: The Rationale: Why?


We need to ensure that the rivers continue to provide the benefits that human beings enjoy.

Services provided by rivers are linked to constituents of our wellbeing.

1: The Rationale: Why?


2: The Methodology: How?

Adaptive Management Approach is Needed.
Framework for Action – ex. IWRM Plan (targeted & com m itted )

On-going knowledge acquisition

Continuous improvement in planning/policy

Rob Speed
Critical role of monitoring (links Effective communication of knowledge for policy/planning

m anagem ent actions to provision of environm ental values)

2: The Methodology: How?

The need to monitor our rivers…
Aspirations Indicators Measure Synthesise and River Health Index 01 (AWDO) Monitoring Strategy Values and Uses

“A healthy & productive river”


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Effective Communication: critical for problem-solving

Knowledge Hubs

2: The Methodology: How?

Effective Communication: A pathway to engaging decision makers
There is a need for “truth to power” opportunities that engage stakeholders and decision makers. Example:

2: The Methodology: How?

Report cards are growing in popularity
• Educational report cards are a common experience • Peer pressure is a powerful human motivator • Report cards synthesise large amounts of data • For example…
• • • • Australia ( Moreton Bay, Gippsland Lakes, Great Barrier Reef) United States (Chesapeake Bay, San Francisco Bay) China (Yellow River, Pearl River and Liao River) New Zealand (Waikato River, Kaipara Harbour) 2: The Methodology: How?

Why produce a report card?
• Enable large and often complex amounts of information to be communicated to a broad audience • Identify regions or issues of concern • Direct/focus management action: impetus for some costly (but environmentally important) intervention • Can provide accountability; measuring the success of a particular effort

2: The Methodology: How?

..Enable large and often complex amounts of information to be communicated to a broad audience

135 freshwater sites (sampled 2x/yr)

254 estuarine & marine sites (sampled monthly)

2: The Methodology: How?

Report Cards increase community awareness…

2: The Methodology: How?

A report card can focus and provide impetus for management…
Ex. Use of Report Card for the Future of Moreton Bay value proposition ($A500M)



D/D2011 2030

Moreton Bay held on to a ‘Good’ rating in spite of increase in population – significant investments in sewage treatment.

High rainfall after a decade of drought A decade's worth of sediment, nutrients and other contaminants in the river channel network was flushed downstream.

Bay recovered slightly, but still lower than average

2011 Flood came on top of this recovery

2: The Methodology: How?

For the future…

River Health Index

River Management Index

• River Health Index (River Health Score Card) - provides an assessment of river health based on a variety of drivers and indicators of river health • River Management Index (IWRM Score Card) - provides a qualitative assessment of management actions in place to prevent future deterioration of the environment.
2: The Methodology: How?


3: The Proponents: Who?

A healthy river is achieved through a shared vision - with community participation in its broadest sense…

3: The Proponents: Who?

Realisation of vision is achieved by working together…
Transactional OR not Executive OR not Neutral

Sufficient OR not Reliable OR not Neutral

Communication Realisation
Complete OR not Effective OR not Neutral Funding & Logistics Easy OR Problematic Full control OR not Neutral

Existing OR not Supporting OR Conflicting Neutral

Adequacy Timing Neutral

Robust OR Weak Consensual OR not Neutral

Adverse OR Favourable Exceptional event OR not Neutral

3: The Proponents: Who?


4: The Resourcing: Who funds?

The need to look at innovative and reliable funding sources.. e.g. payment for ecosystem services; offsets, etc..
Cost of the Interventions/ Management Actions ($0.3B) Benefit (value) of the Environmental Assets/ Cost Doing Nothing (> $2B over next 20 yrs) Benefit:Cost >7:1


Key Message 4: The problem is fixable

MJA, 2011. Sharing the Load

A Voice for our Rivers: a value proposition
1. The Rationale: Rivers and basins provide significant ecosystem services 2. The Methodology: Understand, plan, measure, communicate, manage 3. The Proponents: All of us 4. The Resourcing: need innovative funding approaches

Developing the Value Proposition

Studying and Solving the Problem
(thanks to Bill Dennison)

• Dispassionate • Embrace complexity • Publish & funding via peer review • Getting it right

• Passionate • Simplify • Publish & funding via stakeholders • Getting it done

In order to both study and solve problems, credibility, tenacity, creativity and virtue are needed

Thank you… Any questions…

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