Environmental flows: achieving ecological outcomes in variable environments

Richard Norris, Susan Nichols

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapter

6 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental flows were implemented in the Cotter River in 1999 as a requirement of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Water Resources Act. A multi-disciplinary group composed of representatives from a water utility, ACT government, and research organisations was formed to manage the Cotter River environmental flows program, aiming to achieve specified ecological outcomes and increased water security through adaptive management. Based on scientific knowledge, changes were made to the delivery of environmental flows after drought in 2002 and bushfires in January 2003. Ongoing ecological assessment formed a major component of the adaptive management approach; it informed decisions regarding the achievement of desired ecological outcomes by using trial flow release strategies that involved smaller overall volumes of water. In this way, a feedback loop for the decision-making process was formed; it included a statement of the desired ecological outcomes, specified the flows needed to achieve them, how the effects would be assessed, and provided feedback to the decision makers. Another major component of the adaptive management approach was the formulation of a study design that was able to cope with changing questions and unforeseen events, such as drought and fire. The success of the environmental flows program has been demonstrated through attainment of desired changes to macroinvertebrate assemblage structure and periphyton, together with a significant reduction in the overall volume of water released as environmental flows.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWater Resources Planning and Management
EditorsR Quentin Grafton, Karen Hussey
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9780521762588
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Dive into the research topics of 'Environmental flows: achieving ecological outcomes in variable environments'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this