Murray-Darling Basin Environmental Water Knowledge and Research (MDB EWKR) Project

  Murray-Darling Basin Environmental Water Knowledge and Research (MDB EWKR) Project

The ground-breaking Murray-Darling Basin Environmental Water Knowledge and Research Project is a six-year project established by the Australian Government to give water agencies the information they need to confidently and continually adjust the volume and timing of water flowing in streams, rivers and floodplains in tune with changing environmental conditions, to protect and restore healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems.

This website outlines the MDB EWKR Project’s research in important ecosystems throughout the expansive Murray-Darling Basin, which extends across four states from South Australia to Queensland. This area contains a diverse range of ecosystems that rely to some extent on flows of the Murray-Darling river system for their survival.

We have created these web pages as an introduction to the Project, with links to more detailed information. For updates on MDB EWKR activities, see the Latest News page. We hope you find the information useful but if you are interested in finding out more or have any questions please email the Project Manager, Lyn Smith at

Project overview

EWKR aims to support the complex and evolving needs of the Basin’s environmental water managers to improve their environmental water management, that is, to more effectively and efficiently achieve Basin Plan objectives in diverse systems that experience changing conditions, including floods and droughts.

The EWKR Project has three phases:

  • Planning (June 2014 to January 2016)
  • Evaluating existing knowledge and refining research goals (February 2016-Sept 2016)
  • Research in the field and laboratories (2014-15 to 2018-19).

Building from a collaborative base

The research will support the Commonwealth’s collaborative approach to managing environmental water in the Basin, in particular:

  • the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) role in implementing the Basin Plan,
  • the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office’s (CEWO) role in managing Commonwealth environmental water, and
  • the Basin States’ role in managing environmental water and aquatic assets.

The research will also promote collaboration among research institutions, generating new knowledge of the complex responses of aquatic ecosystems to changes in flows across a range of spatial and temporal scales.

The research program will investigate

  • How ecological responses to different water regimes in the Basin (natural and managed) are linked to incremental changes in ecological health.
  • Medium- and long-term changes in ecological health, particularly how hydrological, aquatic and terrestrial threats can interfere with ecological recovery or improvement. How major contributors to the health of an ecosystem (such as, water flow, land use, invasive species) interact to affect biodiversity, ecosystem function, resilience and water quality.
  • How complementary water management and natural resource management can improve the effectiveness of environmental water management.
  • The environmental flow requirements for sustaining Queensland’s floodplain vegetation.

Making a difference

We expect the research to make a substantial difference to the ability of water agencies to assess and understand incremental changes in ecological health over the medium to long-term. It will strengthen their operations and planning in the following ways:

  • Improved capacity to predict outcomes of environmental flow allocations over 1-5 years.
  • Develop predictive tools and conceptual models to inform environmental watering regimes.
  • Improve water management and complementary natural resource management.
  • Build capacity to set realistic objectives and targets for water management and complementary natural resource management as the climate changes.
  • Improve monitoring, evaluation and reporting on progress toward the Basin Plan environmental objectives and targets.
  • Build capacity to report progress on Basin Plan environmental objectives and targets.

The research is part of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan’s environmental, adaptive management, and reporting objectives.


PDFFact Sheet 1. Project overview (1832 KB)