TRaCK: Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge

Science and knowledge that governments, communities, industries for sustainable use of Australia's tropical rivers and estuaries

Integrated Science Support for Managing Australia's Tropical Rivers: A Case Study in the Daly River Catchment

TitleIntegrated Science Support for Managing Australia's Tropical Rivers: A Case Study in the Daly River Catchment
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsPantus, FJ, Barton, CL, Bradford, L, Stroet, M
Date Published09/2011
InstitutionCharles Darwin University
ISBN Number978-1-921576-42-3
Keywords1: Scenario Evaluation

Project 1.4 is part of TRaCK (Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge) and is entitled “Knowledge Integration and Science Delivery”. Project 1.4 has two main aims:
1. To integrate the knowledge that is being developed across the TRaCK program.
2. To use that integrated knowledge to deliver science into the management domain.

Assisted by consultation with both internal and external stakeholders, Project 1.4 has developed concepts, methods and tools that deliver such knowledge in the form of scenario evaluation capacity to a range of stakeholders, particularly in support of natural resource management.  The approach adopted is based on a conceptual framework known as Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE).

Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE)
The structure and behaviour of the MSE application described in this report is based on an MSE conceptual framework. Founded on the principals of adaptive management, the framework consists of six functional areas, representing a classification of typical activities that are part of (adaptive) resource management. The MSE application implements the framework as a modelbased computational tool that allows managers, policy makers and other stakeholders to assess the potential trade-offs of particular management procedures. An application of MSE to a resource management case makes no attempt to find an optimal management strategy, instead it provides a means by which managers and policy makers can inform their decisions with ‘best available science’. This is achieved by dealing explicitly with uncertainties and systematically presenting a clear set of trade-offs between various management options.

MSE and the Daly River Catchment
The Daly River catchment is located in the Northern Territory and is one of Australia’s largest tropical river catchments with an area of about 53,000km2. Being located in the wet-dry tropical region, the catchment experiences high rainfall volumes in the wet season and very little in the dry season. However, despite the dry season, the Daly River is a perennial river that continues to flow throughout the year. Dry season flow is due to groundwater discharge, the source of which is two major limestone aquifer systems. Within the Daly River catchment, all species of flora and fauna (including humans) depend upon water to sustain life. This dependence upon water is particularly critical in the dry season when demand for water is high.  Consumptive demand (e.g. for agricultural production, human consumption, industry and stock needs) is competing against non-consumptive demand (e.g. ecosystem, cultural and recreational needs). Consumptive demands in the catchment are growing rapidly and are typically met by pumping groundwater from extraction bores. The Northern Territory Government is in the process of developing, implementing and managing Water Allocation Plans (WAPs). These Plans seek to control the volume of water extracted from the Daly aquifer systems.  

In order to demonstrate the potential of the MSE application, an MSE prototype application for the Daly River catchment has been developed. The MSE application is comprised of six main models (conforming to the six functional areas of the MSE framework) configured with submodels and data pertinent to the Daly river catchment. The sub-models include a catchment water model, groundwater model, economics model, habitat model, WAP decision model, and relationship learning model.

The Daly River MSE application provides resource managers with a powerful tool in which to compose and simulate potential management strategies with great flexibility in development and analysis. Management strategies can include (but are not limited to) reducing/increasing groundwater extraction and facilitating economic growth trajectories. The Daly MSE application presents trade-offs between economic, social and environmental (triple bottom line) performance indicators and associated uncertainties. Resource managers are able to weigh these trade-offs (and uncertainties) and make decisions accordingly as they strive to achieve a balance between ecosystem/cultural needs and economic/ human needs.