Cross-Cutting Theme:
Governance and Reporting

Flow-MER brings together the CEWH, CSIRO, Australian River Restoration Centre, State Government Agencies and Universities to provide the science and knowledge to support the adaptive management of the delivery of Commonwealth environmental water in the Murray-Darling Basin. The Program is organised around six Basin Themes and seven Selected Areas. Project governance formalises the collaborative relationships between these organisations and ensures project deliverables are achieved.

How will governance and reporting assist in environmental water outcomes?

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) is responsible under the Water Act 2007 for managing Commonwealth environmental water holdings. The holdings must be managed to protect or restore the environmental assets of the Murray-Darling Basin, and other areas where the Commonwealth holds water, so as to give effect to relevant international agreements. The Basin Plan (2012) further requires that the holdings must be managed in a way that is consistent with the Basin Plan’s Environmental Watering Plan. The Water Act 2007 and the Basin Plan also impose obligations to report on the contribution of Commonwealth environmental water to the environmental objectives of the Basin Plan.

The Basin Plan sets out a program for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the Basin Plan. This program outlines a number of principles which must be applied to monitoring and evaluation. These principles are reflected in the Commonwealth Environmental Water – Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting and Improvement Framework. Monitoring and evaluation support the efficient and effective use of Commonwealth environmental water and will assist in demonstrating the environmental outcomes from watering activities.

How Flow-MER science helps us make the most of water for the environment

How do we know if water for the environment is making a difference? It’s a question we, at the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) are often asked. Our answer – the science tells us.

Read the full response here

Our approach

The Basin-scale Project is a three-year investment in monitoring, evaluation and research (MER) to enable reporting on the outcomes of Commonwealth environmental water and to support adaptive environmental flow management over time. The purpose of the project is to:

  • Demonstrate the outcomes of Commonwealth environmental water across the Basin.
  • Support adaptive management of Commonwealth environmental water.
  • Support the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to fulfil legislative requirements under the Basin Plan.

The Basin-scale Evaluation – formerly the Long Term Intervention Monitoring (LTIM) Project – is undertaken in conjunction with the Flow-MER Program Selected Area-scale project teams. The Selected Area-scale Projects provide data at the Selected Area-scale that is used in the Basin-scale Evaluation. Basin-scale Research – formerly the Environmental Water Knowledge and Research (EWKR) Project – is an investment in new and ongoing research to support environmental water management and inform and enhance Basin-scale Evaluation. Research is being undertaken throughout the Basin.

Flow-MER provides the CEWH with evidence to inform our understanding of how water for the environment is helping maintain, protect, and restore the ecosystems and native species across the Murray–Darling Basin. This evidence exists in the form of publicly available data, models, model outputs and reports. Reports are delivered each year at the Basin-scale and by the Selected Areas. Past reports provide an ongoing record of the outcomes from the delivery of Commonwealth Environmental Water, as well as the knowledge to inform adaptive management of environmental water.

We will produce:

  • Annual Selected Area reports, available here.
  • Annual Basin-scale Synthesis Reports covering the evaluation for the most recent environmental water year combined with previous years. This will be published by CSIRO and be accompanied by Basin-scale reports for each Theme. The lastest reports from the 2021-22 water year are available here:
  • Annual Basin-scale Research Reports to be published by CSIRO, documenting Basin-scale research undertaken and summarising the intended outcomes from future research.

The Basin-scale MER Project is being undertaken from 2019 to 2025, led by CSIRO in partnership with the University of Canberra, collaborating with Charles Sturt University, Deakin University, University of New England, SARDI, Arthur Rylah Institute, NSW Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water, Australian River Restoration Centre and LitePC Technologies and Alluvium.

Image: Chowilla Floodplain. Photo credit: Esri World Imagery

Current activities

Research portfolio

The CEWH and the partners comprising the six Basin Themes and the Selected Areas have contributed to the development of a research portfolio that will run over three years to June 2022. The portfolio addresses key knowledge gaps for the adaptive management of environmental water. The portfolio has been peer reviewed by international science leaders with specialist knowledge of freshwater ecology, ecological modelling and evaluation.

Monitoring and Evaluation plans

Each of the Selected Areas and the Basin-scale Team have approved plans that set out the activities, timing and outputs for three years to June 2022. Plans are updated annually and published each July by the CEWH. This ensures plans remain current and remain suitable for monitoring project progress and performance.

Progress reports

Progress is monitored using quarterly progress reporting against the agreed plans. The leaders of research projects provide quarterly updates on research progress. Theme Leaders provide quarterly updates on the progress across monitoring, evaluation and reporting. These reports are synthesised into quarterly progress reports to the CEWH that focus on progress against the Evaluation and Research Plan and report on emerging issues.

Risk management

Plans include a risk assessment and any change in risk profile is reported in quarterly reports to the CEWH. This helps ensure that projects remain on track and focussed on delivering information that meets the needs of the CEWH and their water delivery partners.

Our team

Dr. Emily Barbour

Emily is a Senior Research Scientist in hydrology at CSIRO and the Co-Leader of the Flow-MER Basin project. Emily works on a diverse range of water issues within Australia and internationally, focusing on collaboratively generating knowledge and tools to support decision making for complex environmental challenges.

Prof. Ross Thompson

Ross is a freshwater ecologist, interested in the study of aquatic biodiversity, ecosystem function and food web ecology. Ross is the director of the Centre for Applied Water Science, University of Canberra.

Dianne Flett

Dianne is the Project Coordinator for the Flow MER Basin Project. Dianne has experience in the water and natural resource management sectors and has coordinated large projects including the Sustainable Rivers Audit and the Murray-Darling Basin Sustainable Yields Project. Dianne works as a consultant providing services in communication, program planning and project management.

Dr. Carmel Pollino

Carmel is a Principal Research Scientist at Land and Water at CSIRO. She has 20 years of experience working on water issues in Australia and throughout Asia. Carmel has worked extensively in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, developing risk assessment methods, quantifying the benefits of environmental water and developing methods for evaluation. Carmel is the Project Director and co-Project Leader in the Flow MER Basin project.

Amy Warnick

Amy is a Project Delivery Coordinator in the Ecosystem Dynamics Team at CSIRO. Amy has a background in natural resource management and ecology, and provides technical and research delivery support and coordination to a range of multidisciplinary research projects.


Paul manages the Science Team in CEWH responsible for the delivery of the MER Program. His background is in water and biodiversity management with a focus on the Murray Darling Basin. He has a strong interest in the exchange and uptake of science and knowledge between scientists, water managers and the community.


Ethan is a CEWH Project Officer for the Flow-MER Program with a focus on Selected Area monitoring and evaluation. His background is in natural resource management, ecology and conservation. He has a strong interest in water governance and technologies in water management and monitoring.


Mitch is a CEWH Project Officer for the Flow-MER Program with a focus on Selected Area monitoring and evaluation. His background is in environmental/physical geography and climate resilience. He has strong interests in the use of First Nations knowledge and new technologies in water management.

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