Legal duties for environmental water provisions in Western Australia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Western Australia has not delivered on its promises to make environmental water
provisions (EWPs), including to restore environmentally sustainable flows of water to
waterways and wetlands. WA has prioritised water supply for consumptive use under
pressure from a growing population. Urban areas draw a significant amount of water
from outside urban regions to the detriment of the natural environment. This article
reviews the implementation of EWPs under Western Australian law by testing the
operation of the current legislation on a case study of the catchment of a Ramsar listed
wetland in south-west Western Australia and suggests solutions to the legal
deficiencies. We find that National and State policies on EWPs are not being complied
with, including statutory recognition of legally secure EWPs and the return to
environmentally sustainable levels of extraction. WA has not implemented transparent
water allocation planning; instead, it has discarded early environmental impact
assessment approval conditions in favour of confidential processes of water licensing
to administer small summer releases. We argue that restoration aspirations are more
likely to be achieved if there are clear justiciable duties on the Minister for Water to
provide EWPs and propose how this may be done.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-246
Number of pages41
JournalThe University of Western Australia Law Review
Volume42
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017

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