Angus Webb

Angus Webb

Angus Webb, Australia

Dr Angus Webb is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Hydrology and Water Resources at the University of Melbourne, Australia. His research centres on the study and restoration of large-scale environmental problems in freshwater systems. Angus is heavily involved in the monitoring, evaluation and adaptive management of environmental water delivered under the Australian government’s Murray-Darling Basin Plan, leading the program for the Goulburn River, Victoria. Angus has authored over 100 publications in the international literature, including 58 journal papers. He is an editor of the recent book, “Water for the Environment: from policy and science to implementation and management”, and is currently editing two journal special issues on different aspects of environmental water science and management. He was awarded the 2013 prize for Building Knowledge in Waterway Management by the River Basin Management Society in Australia, and the 2012 Australian Society for Limnology Early Career Achievement Award.

Presentation Title: Principles for monitoring, evaluation and adaptive management of environmental flows

Environmental flows are often a contentious investment in the environment that must be delivered under uncertainty regarding its ecological and social benefits. Adaptive management can be used to facilitate decision making under uncertainty, and new knowledge and understanding gained used to improve management decisions and outcomes over time. However, there is a perception that adaptive management has failed to deliver improvements in decision making and learning. Moreover, while monitoring and evaluation is an essential feature of adaptive management, too often monitoring of environmental flows has been absent or of poor quality. We outline a set of general principles for improving monitoring, evaluation and adaptive management of environmental water regimes. Overall, successful adaptive management depends upon the formation and maintenance of strong partnerships based on mutual trust and a shared vision for the river being managed. In more detail, we recognize the importance of: recognition of the time necessary to build and maintain partnerships; appreciation of the importance of individuals, roles, skills and experience; looking for understanding from other projects, but realizing that there is no single recipe; recognizing that adaptive management may emerge spontaneously; coordination of monitoring and evaluation across large spatial and temporal scales; creation of monitoring programs of requisite simplicity; using innovative approaches to analysis and evaluation to make the most of the available data; maintaining the adaptive aspect of adaptive management; and ensuring regular reporting of observations, learnings and processes – this in particular is of great importance. We contend that successful adaptive management is much more common than widely perceived, but a lack of documentation and reporting means that these successes remain hidden, and the learnings are not taken up elsewhere. The inclusion of ‘reflectors’ in monitoring and evaluation teams will better capture the lessons learned by individual programs, improving adaptive management into the future.