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Indicators of community vulnerability and adaptive capacity across the Murray– Darling Basin—a focus on irrigation in agriculture

  • Year: 2010
  • Author: Nyree Stenekes, Robert Kancans, Lucy Randall, Rob Lesslie, Richard Stayner, Ian Reeve, Michael Coleman
  • Publisher: Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics – Bureau of Rural Sciences
  • Published Location: Canberra, ACT
  • Country: Australia
  • State/Region: New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria

There are many changes occurring in rural and regional communities in the Murray-Darling
Basin as a result of climate change, water availability, water trading, global markets, population
movements and ongoing social changes. Basin communities will respond to and be affected by
a range of these drivers in combination with their adaptive capacity, resilience and vulnerability.
This project was commissioned by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to measure
the vulnerability, resilience and adaptive capacity of Basin communities to changes in water
availability — due to a range of factors — in order to inform MDBA planning and decisionmaking.

The aim of the project was to increase understanding of community socio-economic
circumstances in the Murray-Darling Basin and to provide a readily accessible metric with which
to compare the vulnerability of the many communities across the Basin. A set of measures
of community vulnerability to changes in water availability was developed drawing on and
adapting the IPCC framework (Allen Consulting 2005). Composite indices were derived to
spatially examine differences across regions and communities and these were mapped at the
Basin scale. The work applies the concept of sensitivity, which in the context of this report is
a measure of the reliance of Basin communities on irrigation water and their dependence on
associated agricultural and processing employment. It then develops the composite index of
community vulnerability by overlaying this sensitivity with a measure of the adaptive capacity of
communities to manage or cope with change.

The results show that community vulnerability to changes in water availability varies widely
across the Basin depending on the different adaptive capacities and sensitivities of particular

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