Beyond a ‘just add water’ perspective: environmental water management for vegetation outcomes

Cherie J. Campbell, Siwan Lovett, Samantha J. Capon, Ross M. Thompson, Fiona J. Dyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Practitioners of environmental water management (EWM) operate within complex social-ecological systems. We sought to better understand this complexity by investigating the management of environmental water for vegetation outcomes. We conducted an online survey to determine practitioners’ perspectives on EWM for non-woody vegetation (NWV) in the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia with regards to: i) desirable outcomes and benefits; ii) influencing factors and risks; iii) challenges of monitoring and evaluation, and iv) improving outcomes. Survey participants indicated that EWM aims to achieve outcomes by improving or maintaining vegetation attributes and the functions and values these provide. Our study reveals that EWM practitioners perceive NWV management in a holistic and highly interconnected way. Numerous influencing factors as well as risks and challenges to achieving outcomes were identified by participants, including many unrelated to water. Survey responses highlighted six areas to improve EWM for NWV outcomes: (1) flow regimes, (2) vegetation attributes, (3) non-flow drivers, (4) management-governance considerations, (5) functions and values, and (6) monitoring, evaluation and research. These suggest a need for more than ‘just water’ when it comes to the restoration and management of NWV. Our findings indicate more integrated land-water governance and management is urgently required to address the impacts of non-flow drivers such as pest species, land-use change and climate change. The results also indicate that inherent complexity in EWM for ecological outcomes has been poorly addressed, with a need to tackle social-ecological constraints to improve EWM outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119499
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2023


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