Governing Climate-Related Systemic Risks in the Murray-Darling Basin in Australia



Mass fish kills and widespread drought in Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) have demonstrated the importance of leaving enough water in rivers for river ecosystems, a challenge that is set to intensify under climate change. Water governance must grapple with these ‘systemic’ climate risks and prepare communities for the wide-ranging and significant changes that will occur. But addressing climate risks will require governments and water regulators to move beyond existing practices and take into account non-stationarity as well as stochastic and non-linear changes in the future climate. Governance systems will need to be structured to engage more directly and intensively with the many perspectives on how much water can be consumed now and in the future. This article evaluates the legal content of the governance regime for climate risks in the MDB, drawing conclusions on who, or what, bears the risk of climate change. It will then use theories of risk governance and deliberative democracy to demonstrate how the systematic adoption of a deliberative approach through statutory evaluation and review processes could improve the MDB regime’s problem-solving capabilities, as well as its ability to reduce polarisation in a hotter, drier climate.


Climate changewater lawsystemic riskadaptationdeliberationMurray-Darling Basin
  • Year: 2022
  • Volume: 18 Issue: 2
  • Page/Article: 12–29
  • DOI: 10.36633/ulr.826
  • Published on 28 Nov 2022
  • Peer Reviewed