Water Resources Management

, Volume 25, Issue 15, pp 4051–4068 | Cite as

Water Law and Planning Frameworks Under Climate Change Variability: Systemic and Adaptive Management of Flood Risk

  • Lee Godden
  • Anthony KungEmail author


Climate change is predicted to bring more extreme climatic variability to Australia. Yet recent reforms to Australian water law and governance have typically focused on water scarcity, not floods. In the summer of 2010/2011, devastating floods in a major urban centre and in regional areas were powerful reminders of the need for more systemic and adaptive responses for water resources management. Using Queensland and Victoria as case studies, the article demonstrates how the water law frameworks in both states assume ‘stationarity’ through the adoption of standards such as the 1:100 year flood event probability—an assumption that climate change has rendered unreliable. The article then examines the consequences of reliance on these past modes, particularly in respect of land use planning measures for flood risk adaptation. Finally, this article considers systemic responses for improved flood management focussing on strategic government planning, driven in part by potential litigation in the courts, as well as more local ‘autonomous’ adaptation in community-based initiatives.


Flood risk and climate change Climate change adaptation and planning for flood risk Water law and governance 



The authors would like to thank the reviewers for their helpful and incisive comments, the journal and its editorial management; and to acknowledge the support provided by the Australian Research Council grant DP0987850 Responding to Climate Change: Australia's Environmental Law and Regulatory Framework.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law (CREEL), Melbourne Law SchoolThe University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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