Drought and water in the Murray–Darling Basin: From disaster policy to adaptation

Linda C. Botterill, Stephen Dovers

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookOther chapter contributionpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In 1989, Australian government policy ceased to consider drought as a natural disaster but rather viewed it as a problem of risk management in a highly variable climate. This fundamental shift was a long time in the making and has not been without implementation difficulties; however, the experience contains lessons for climate change adaptation for communities and policymakers. Adaptation and disasters are about coping with greater frequency and/or intensity of climate-related events – storms, flooding, heat waves, cyclones and so on. If these events become more norm than exception, then a similar policy shift from disaster preparation and relief to risk management can be expected. The shift is consistent with evolution of emergency and disaster theory and practice, from natural disasters and ‘acts of God’ to risk management to deal with the intersection of environmental variation and human vulnerability across hazard types (Handmer and Dovers, 2013). Like other insights from cognate policy and research domains, this shift has yet to be comprehended in much adaptation literature (Dovers and Hezri, 2010). We summarise the history of drought policy in Australia and the political, cultural and other issues embedded in the process of policy change. We then comment on the intersection of drought policy with the closely related issue of water allocation in the Murray-Darling Basin under conditions of scarcity and climate variability.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNatural Disasters and Adaptation to Climate Change
EditorsSarah Boulter, Jean Palutikof, David John Karoly , Daniela Guitart
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9780511845710
ISBN (Print)9781107010161
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


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