Australia Sustainable Food, Environment, & Social Systems 2017

Blog site for the 2017 MSU study abroad program.

23-Cary W.

My name is Cary Welsh and I am a Junior at MSU majoring in Environmental Studies and Sustainability minoring in Environmental Economics. I am from Ann Arbor Michigan, and have lived there my entire life.

I was lucky enough to travel to Australia in high school for a week. Ever since I left I have wanted to travel back, and once I arrived at MSU I knew I was going to look for every chance to revisit. I was once again lucky to be accepted into this program and I cannot wait to go back! Everything about the country left me wishing I had more time to explore it, but the natural world that encompasses the country was what really hooked me. The country has a some of the most diverse and intricate ecosystems I had ever seen.

I want to go back to Australia to study its conservation efforts for its natural resources and ecosystems. Specifically the way the country uses its limited water resources efficiently and how those resources are changing in the midst of a radically changing climate and world.  Australia has a growing economy that is deeply tied to its Agriculture, which can be a major strain on water resources. While Australia is a large country with a majority of it being arid land, they are a beacon for water resource management. The Murray-Darling Basin is one of the main water sources for Australia, located in the SouthEastern part of the country. The river basin also “supports over 30,000 wetlands and rivers and a wide variety of plants and animals. It is a refuge for threatened species and is an important breeding place for birds migrating to Australia from as far away as the Arctic.” (Australian Government)

I would like to be able to study their water markets, how they allocate water, and how they manage their water use with wildlife and habitats in mind.


  1. Do you think the water markets are helpful or harmful to the overall water use in Australia.
  2. Do you know how water is distributed in Australia compared to other large nations around the globe?
  3. What do you think the world could learn from Australian water markets?


Australian Government. Environmental Water, Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

Townsend, Debra & Adams, Odette. 2017, August 3rd. Water Rights and Trading in Australia.

O’Donnell, Erin & Loch, Adam James.  2016, December 1st. Investors and Speculators Aren’t Disrupting the Water Markets.


Well its finally over, its wild to think that I left with 23 other students and 2 professors three months ago for the trip of a lifetime! My trip was something that I will always cherish and my project topic has sparked an interest in me about water markets being sustainable not only in the Murray-Darling river basin but across the world. My definition of sustainability did not necessarily change due to my experiences in Australia but I do recognize that the term should have different meaning depending on the context, the ability to repeat an action without running out of the necessary resources in the foreseeable future.

In 2007 Australia implemented a series of water markets, platforms in which buyers and sellers could trade rights to water, either water entitlements or yearly water allocations, to help address the countries water needs. The driest of all the inhabited continents, Australia has a growing demand for water and its supply is not following the same path. The water markets implemented in the Murray-Darling river basin have overall been a step towards a more sustainable Australia. They have created a more accurate price for water and with that a more efficient distribution of the continents most crucial resource. Farmers who had previously been over allocated water now have a reason to sell and a platform on which to do it. Those who weren’t over-allocated still have an incentive to reduce water use or use what they do have more efficiently in order to sell all there unused water at a premium price to those who could better use it.

This change in water policy has brought about a new wave of sustainability to the continent. The Australian government has bought back 670 gigaliters of water (compared to the 7700 gigaliters in the market) to go towards environmental use such as the Hattah Lakes system, restoring them to a more natural state and improving habitats for flora and fauna. The markets have created a new boost to the economy as Water Brokers is now a job, and a site visit we did (Ruralco Water Brokers in Mildura)!

The rest of the world has a lesson to learn from Australia’s water markets! California is facing a very similar situation, an arid region with rampant harsh droughts and water scarcity. Sounds like the perfect location for new water markets to me!


Ruralco Water Brokers.

Red Mud Energy Project.

Australian Government. Water Trading in the Basin, Murray-Darling Basin Authority. Retrieved August 04, 2017 from

National Museum of Australia. Australia’s water story. (n.d.). Retrieved August 04, 2017, from

Wheeler, S. (n.d.). Reviewing the adoption and impact of water markets in the Murray–Darling Basin, Australia. Retrieved August 04, 2017, from

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources – National Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved August 04, 2017, from


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