UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Lessons from Oz to the Okanagan : water policy and structural reform in a changing climate Belzile, Jacqueline Adrienne


Motivated by a decade-long drought and a strategic shift towards Ecologically Sustainable Development to ensure global competitiveness, Australia’s federal government has invested billions of dollars in the water sector, spurring innovation in data gathering, modeling, water management practice and policy reform. The aim of this exploratory research project was to illuminate the context in which Australian water reforms and innovations have taken place, and to compare that to the Canadian water context through the eyes of participating Canadian water experts to identify insights, opportunities and barriers to the transfer of lessons on sustainable water management from Australia to Canada, particularly to the Okanagan region of British Columbia. I organized a two week water management tour in May 2010 and took two water experts from British Columbia to Australia to meet with water policymakers, water managers, stakeholder organization representatives, water service providers and users to discuss their drought adaptation and water reform experiences. Data was collected via participant observation during the tour and semi-structured interviews with the Canadian water experts prior to and following the tour. Field data was complemented by a comparative review of Australian and Canadian water policy literature, key water legislation and policies, and technical reports. The resulting comparative policy analysis highlights socio-cultural dimensions of the lessons transfer process and the importance of considering cultural lenses, as I argue that approaches to water management are value-laden and specific because they work in socially dynamic systems in particular environments. First, I provide a comparison of the Canadian and Australian water contexts, exploring similarities and differences in geography, water infrastructure, water resources, water uses, federalism and water policy. Second, I analyze the recent phase of structural reforms surrounding the Australian Water Act of 2007 and the proposed Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and suggest that this constitutes one of the first large-scale attempts at water reform in line with principles of ecological governance. Third, I describe lessons learned by the Canadian water experts on social change, water governance, water reforms and the research process – including discussions of the social value of water, economic approaches to water reform, water markets and stakeholder engagement.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International