"The authors describe and analyze management in the Murray-Darling Basin of Australia, long regarded as a model for integrated river basin management. This interior basin of over 1 million km2 in semi-arid southeastern Australia is defined by the catchment areas of the Murray and Darling Rivers and their tributaries. Water management issues include allocation, quality, and dryland salinity. Because of Australia's federal governmental structure, institutional development has been more a matter of integrating state and local endeavors than decentralization of national authority. The Australian national government has little constitutional power over water resources. The five states in the basin make policy regarding water rights, discharge permits, fees, and the construction and operation of physical structures. River management began on the Murray River in the 1920s under the terms of a tri-state agreement. As the scope of management widened to the entire basin, more states were added and the national government supported the creation of new arrangements for integrated water resource management, with some provision for stakeholder participation. The dynamics of state-national authority over water policy, and the emergence in recent years of numerous local-level catchment organization, contribute to some uncertainty about the future course of basin management in this internationally renowned site. This paper--a product of the Agriculture and Rural Development Department--is part of a larger effort in the department to approach water policy issues in an integrated way. The study was funded by the Bank's Research Support Budget under the research project "Integrated River Basin Management and the Principle of Managing Water Resources at the Lowest Appropriate Level: When and Why Does It (Not) Work in Practice?""--World Bank web site.
Drawing upon a worldwide survey of river basin organizations and in-depth studies of eight river basins in a variety of locations around the globe, this book examines how institutional arrangements for managing water resources at the river-basin level have been designed and implemented, what the impetus for these arrangements has been, and what institutional features appear to be associated with greater or lesser success in river basin management.