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Keywords:

  • environmental policy;
  • irrigation;
  • water policy

Water policy in the Murray-Darling Basin continues to be dominated by the trade-offs between agricultural and environmental interests. This has recently been played out with the acrimonious debate that circumscribed the release of the Guide to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. In this paper, we argue that too much emphasis has been placed on the volume of held water as an indicator of environmental benefit. We also contend that there is an attendant presumption of linearity in the relationship between volumes of held water and environmental benefit which could lead to perverse outcomes. A second problem is that there is too much enthusiasm for contemplating the solutions to water management problems as residing primarily at the federal level of government. These factors stand to ultimately limit the efficient delivery of environmental objectives.