Future Flow-MER: The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) collaborative design of its future monitoring, evaluation and research activities within the Murray–Darling Basin.
The CEWO is undertaking activities to design and procure its future monitoring, evaluation and research activities (referred to as Flow-MER2.0) which refine and enhance the current Flow-MER program. This builds on the December 2020 independent scientific evaluation of the Long-Term Intervention Monitoring (LTIM) and the Environmental Water Knowledge and Research (EWKR) projects, consultation with Basin stakeholders, and over ten years of experience in managing environmental water within the Basin.
The final evaluation report, technical appendices and the response from the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) to the Independent Scientific Evaluation are available at: Review of LTIM and EWKR. The evaluation provided 16 recommendations for improvements and further considerations which are summarised below:
- clarifying purpose of the Basin scale evaluation and improving alignment to the Basin-wide Environmental Watering Strategy
- improving design to incorporate flexibility, responsiveness and integration of activities
- improving communication, engagement and collaboration with Basin stakeholders
- improving First Nations engagement, participation and partnerships
- improving data management to ensure data accessibility and sharing
The current Flow-MER Program is scheduled to conclude in June 2023. However, the CEWO is seeking to extend the current Flow-MER Area-scale and Basin-scale contracts for one additional year, to enable monitoring to continue in 2023-24 and subsequent Basin-scale evaluation reporting while the collaborative design process is completed. Consequently, the current Flow-MER Program will conclude in June 2024 and the new program will commence in July 2024.
The CEWO intends to approach the market via an open tender process for the procurement of future monitoring, evaluation and research activities. Information will be made available on AusTender in Quarter 3 of 2022–23.
Basin-scale Collaborative Design Process
The CEWO engaged the CSIRO through the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to facilitate a collaborative design process for the Basin evaluation and research component of Flow-MER2.0.
The Basin collaborative design process commenced in September 2021 and concluded in June 2022. The key steps in the process were:
- Workshop with the CEWO (22 September 2021)
- Engagement workshops with CEWO, Flow-MER Providers, Commonwealth and Jurisdiction representatives, First Nations, other research groups (October 2021 – March 2022)
- Flow-MER2.0 document review and update (November 2021 – May 2022)
- Independent Advisory Group – review and recommendations (December 2021 – June 2022)
- Document completion and submission (June 2022).
Outputs from the Basin-scale collaborative design process are being utilised by the CEWO to inform the design of the future program, project components and documentation.
A further collaborative design process will be undertaken when Providers for Flow-MER2.0 have been contracted. Steps to procure, contract and commence implementation of Flow-MER2.0 are indicatively outlined below:
- Stage 1:
- Part A: Collaborative development of Program level strategies and documents (September – December 2023),
- Part B: Consultation and planning (January – March 2024)
- Part C: Plan development and approval (April – June 2024)
- Stage 2:
- Commence implementation of Flow-MER2.0 (July 2024)
Independent Advisory Group
To help provide advice and review on the future design of Flow-MER2.0 Program, the CEWO has established an Independent Advisory Group. The members are Prof Peter Davies, Prof Fran Sheldon, Dr Jenni Metcalfe, Ms Chrissy Grant and Dr Rhonda Butcher as coordinator. This group will review, advise and make recommendations to the CEWO, ensuring independent oversight of the collaborative design process and program design.
The design of Flow-MER2.0 is guided by the following principles:
- Collaboration - creating consultative virtual environments to enable respectful discussions and advice from a range of stakeholders including:
- Government agencies
- Science providers
- Independent Advisory Group
- Aboriginal scientists
- Build on success - recognising the strengths and limitations of past programs as identified in the recent reviews of Flow-MER, LTIM and EWKR
- Program Purpose - contributing to CEWO legislative reporting requirements and adaptive management of environmental water
- Complementary – aligning with and complementing the Basin Environmental Watering Strategy, CEWO Selected Areas MER and other programs, including jurisdictional activities
- Culturally inclusive – including Aboriginal people and Indigenous science
- Data management and sharing - enhancing the value and utility of monitoring and research data, through improved data governance, management and sharing
- Communication and engagement - improving the effectiveness and impact of communication and engagement activities both internal and external to the Program
- Innovative and robust - encouraging innovative approaches that are robust and underpinned by scientifically defensible research, monitoring and evaluation
- Impactful - promoting a reporting structure which is impactful, efficient and focussed on clear communication of fit-for-purpose outcomes and guidance to inform legislative reporting and improve water management.