Identifying low risk climate change adaptation in catchment management while avoiding unintended consequences

Submitted by Michael Rastall | published 16th Apr 2013 | last updated 5th Jan 2023


Inherent in every adaptation measure are risks, costs and benefits. A challenge for decision-makers is how to choose adaptations that reduce risks from climate change impacts and provide overwhelmingly beneficial outcomes. This project focused on three catchments in the Murray-Darling Basin to test a method for more integrative climate change adaptation that increased resilience and avoided maladaptation. Water management under the highly variable Murray-Darling Basin climate has lessons and broad implications for climate policies, especially as some of the proposed climate change adaptation measures for ecosystems and water resources are overly narrow or maladaptive, and have a high risk of institutional failure. 

We brought together a range of experts and Catchment Management Authority (CMA) representatives from the Goulburn-Broken, Lachlan and NSW Murray catchments to synthesise and integrate the risks, costs and benefits of climate change adaptation measures and assess the extent to which they may represent maladaptation or contribute to adaptation and resilience. 

Specific methods included a literature review; a three-day technical workshop with representatives from the three CMAs as well as technical experts from academic institutions and government departments; three stakeholder workshops with the CMAs; and semi-structured interviews with 20 key stakeholder representatives in each case study. Limitations of this approach, mainly due to timing and financial constraints, included small sample sizes for the interviews, a CMA-only focus, reliance on expert opinion and limited opportunity to further test the results.


Lukasiewicz, A, Finlayson, CM, Pittock, J 2013 Identifying low risk climate change adaptation in catchment management while avoiding unintended consequences, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, pp.103.