What do the Murray-Darling Basin in southern Australia and the Colorado Plateau have in common? They are dying of thirst.

After decades of manipulation by humans, combined with increased populations in nearby cities diverting existing water from agriculture, both regions are running out of water and feeling the effects of climate change.

The parallels between the Murray-Darling Basin and the Colorado Plateau regarding climate change, water resources and related policy decisions inspired the Watershed Research and Education Program at NAU to host a workshop “Watershed Management and Policy Development: Learning from Australia” from July 27-28. It will be followed by an optional post-workshop San Juan River trip from July 28-31.

The Murray-Darling Basin, located in southern Australia, is experiencing a 12-year drought, devastating crops in an area once famous for its rice production. Scientists all over the world are looking at the Basin to understand what went wrong and to learn from the Aussies who are trying to repair it to make the future better—and wetter.

Just for fun
The similarities between the Murray-Darling Basin and the Colorado Plateau are so striking that Joe Shannon annually makes predictions for Flagstaff’s snow season based off of the Basin’s winter during our summer.”Look at the snowpack of the Murray-Darling Basin in the summer—its winter—and it is a good indicator of whether or not to buy a Snowbowl season pass. In the last eight years I’ve only been wrong once.”

“Several climate change models indicate that the Murray-Darling Basin in Australia is responding more quickly to climate change than the Colorado River Basin,” said Joe Shannon, director of the Watershed Research and Education Program and research associate and adjunct professor for the Department of Biological Sciences. “Therefore we can learn how Australian policy makers have handled protracted drought, increase in wildfire severity, groundwater depletion, etc.”

The workshop features a panel of experts including three members from Queensland, Australia; Regents Professor Zachary A. Smith, who specializes in natural resources and environmental policy and administration under NAU’s department of political science; and Anne Browning-Aiken, cultural anthropologist and senior researcher from the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy at the University of Arizona.

The panel will discuss ideas ranging from how Australia’s laws were established to handle the groundwater and surface water interface to using data modeling technology to predict future changes, sources and available water.

To register for the workshop, click here. Learn more about the Murray-Darling Basin here.