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Science and research

Australia is in the midst of a huge and visionary reform to deliver a productive and healthy future for our biggest water resource – the interconnected rivers of the Murray–Darling Basin – and it’s working.

And to manage the Basin, the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) uses the best available peer reviewed science – this includes hydrological, environmental, social and economic sciences. Local knowledge is also important, as local communities understand their stretch of river better than anyone.

In making decisions, the 6-member Authority considers science and knowledge, along with the views and preferences of communities and key stakeholders.

New science and data is constantly emerging, and the MDBA continuously monitors and assesses the health of the Basin.

Working with the Basin governments

The MDBA works with Basin governments to agree on the scientific approach to assessment and monitoring of the health of the Basin.

The MDBA also shares its science and modelling with Basin governments and seeks input from their own government experts to validate the analysis and results.

Independent Science

Research results and analysis regularly undergo a review process internally and often externally. Like all science and research, the MDBA exposes its work to peer review as a matter of standard practice. Peer review is independent and provides quality assurance on the research methodology, data and the interpretation of results. Reviews are carried out by independent and external subject-matter experts, such as an expert panel, universities, research institutions, or other technical experts within other government agencies.

The MDBA has an Advisory Committee on Social Economic and Environmental Sciences (ACSEES), which provides advice on science and knowledge. ACSEES is particularly focused on social, economic and environmental sciences. The multidisciplinary committee consists of 7 members who bring a depth of understanding of issues relevant to implementing the Basin Plan. Members provide skills and eminence in fields of economics, hydrology, ecology and resilience, water governance and law, sociology and sustainable systems.


When implementing the Basin Plan and managing water use within the Basin, science predicts and considers different scenarios for the health and production of the rivers. The people running the rivers use ‘models’ to simulate a range of possible future scenarios and consider how different rainfall, evaporation and climate conditions could impact on river flows.

Modelling provides scientists an opportunity to test new ideas and management strategies – this is important to inform planning decisions.

Climate change and adaptation

Climate change is impacting on the health of the Basin, and scientists predict the Basin’s climate is likely to become drier and more variable. So, in addition to more extreme droughts, there may also be more extreme floods.

The MDBA considers climate change in its modelling and science.

Planning for the future

As an independent, science-based and evidence-driven organisation, the MDBA draws on the expertise of our highly qualified staff including engineers, hydrologists and environmental scientists.

Their priority is to deliver the Plan in a way that secures the future of this vital river system, and the communities and industries that rely on it.

This is a complex job.

While we can’t accurately predict the future, the MDBA works with many others to produce the best possible plan for the long-term. This draws on around 120 years of data and research including gauge flows, weather, water quality, and changes in landuse and plant and animal communities over time.

Updated: 23 Dec 2021