How does the discourse surrounding the Murray Darling Basin manage the concept of entitlement to water? Academic Article uri icon


  • Globally, the challenges of climate change have resulted in significant water policy reform. Australia’s Murray Darling Basin (MDB) Plan is a complex transboundary water management system that aims to balance the need for environmental protection with the needs of social and economic users of water. In July 2017, media reports argued that some MDB irrigators were misappropriating water destined for the environment and downstream users. This article uses Foucauldian discourse analysis to explore this flashpoint in the long-standing tensions between all stakeholders including the Basin jurisdictions. Diverse understandings of who is entitled to water that are shaped by the historical, political and social context are central to this conflict. Findings suggest that both neoliberal governmentality and the agrarian discourse are threatened by an emerging governmentality that embraces non-farming interests. The broader experience of water scarcity in a rapidly changing climate suggests comparable issues will become evident across the world.

publication date

  • 2019