Factsheet #19

River basin organisation

Instrument Type


Governance Level


Governance Mode


Water management topics addressed

Drought & water scarcity
Water abstraction for irrigation and other economic activities
Water quality issues due to nutrient pollution
Water quality issues: Other reasons

Implementation requirements

Financial capacity


Human capacity


Political buy-in


Timeframe for implementation


#19: River basin organisation


River basin organizations are important actors in coordinating water policy across the different levels of government, with the shared objective of harmonizing water policy at river basin level. River basin management has been proposed to fill existing administrative gaps and to ensure a holistic and hydrological approach to coordinating water policy between sub-national actors and levels of government.


River basin organisations bear a wide array of responsibilities, with the common objective of harmonising water policies at the basin level. On the one hand, the basin perspective makes it easier to integrate physical, environmental, social and economic influences on water resources. On the other hand, the decentralisation of water has increased the number of relevant (administrative) boundaries and organisations. With the introduction of basin management, problems of interplay have emerged and currently these have not been sufficiently addressed by practitioners and scientific research. Communication between these organisations across levels and in various policy fields is essential for an efficient that can support adaptive .

Example: The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) in Australia

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is an independent expertise-based governmental agency in Australia, responsible for the management of water resources of the Murray-Darling Basin. More specifically, the main activities of the agency are the creation and implementation of a plan for the sustainable use of the Basin’s water resources, the monitoring of water quality/quantity, the research on water resources and the River’s ecosystem and the engagement of the community in water-related issues. All of its decisions are taken with consideration to the interest of the Basin as a whole, which spans across four Australian States. Planning and management decisions entail both horizontal and vertical challenges that originates from the different sectors that interact with the basin at each governmental level and from the variety of administrative functions between different levels of government. The multilevel of the MDBA results in a decision-making process that is not top-down, but of a rather cyclical structure where a large number of individuals, organizations and institutions have the chance to affect the resulting policy output.


Ross A., Connell D. (2016). The evolution and performance of river basin management in the Murray-Darling Basin. Ecology and Society 21(3):29 (pp. 2, 9)

Murray-Darling Basin Authority
https://www.mdba.gov.au/about-us Retrieved on 22 September 2020

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