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Indigenous Water Governance in Australia: Comparisons with the United States and Canada

Natural Resources Management Department, New Mexico Highlands University, P.O. Box 9000, Las Vegas, NM 87701, USA
Wyoming Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, USA
College of Marine & Environmental Sciences, Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Studies, James Cook University, Cairns, QLD 4870, Australia
ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia
College of Science & Engineering, Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Note: in this paper, using the term ‘Aboriginal people’ or ‘Aboriginal person’ has been recommended by the Australian Aboriginal Advisory Group of Community Legal Centre’s NSW because they are “more positive and empowering terms”. We also use the term “Indigenous”; ‘lndigenous’ is still commonly used to refer to Aboriginal people, to avoid repetition of the word ‘Aboriginal’. The UN Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development started using the term “Indigenous peoples” for the first time in its official political declaration in 2002. “Native American” refers to the Indigenous peoples of the Americas and came into widespread common use during the civil rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The term “Indian” is still widely used today in the U.S. The Canadian government has formally adopted use of the term “First Nations” and “Aboriginal peoples.” In Canada, the terms (above) are formal categories, but many prefer “Indigenous” as a more inclusive term to refer to “First Nations”, “Inuit” and “Metis”. The term “Tribes” is used when discussing the U.S. context but is not used very much in Canada. At times in this paper, the term “Tribe” is used in one context (specifically when discussing the U.S.) but not in other contexts.
Water 2018, 10(11), 1639;
Received: 16 August 2018 / Revised: 1 October 2018 / Accepted: 9 November 2018 / Published: 13 November 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Water Resources Management and Governance)
PDF [266 KB, uploaded 22 November 2018]


Aboriginal participation in water resources decision making in Australia is similar when compared with Indigenous peoples’ experiences in other common law countries such as the United States and Canada; however, this process has taken different paths. This paper provides a review of the literature detailing current legislative policies and practices and offers case studies to highlight and contrast Indigenous peoples’ involvement in water resources planning and management in Australia and North America. Progress towards Aboriginal governance in water resources management in Australia has been slow and patchy. The U.S. and Canada have not developed consistent approaches in honoring water resources agreements or resolving Indigenous water rights issues either. Improving co-management opportunities may advance approaches to improve interjurisdictional watershed management and honor Indigenous participation. Lessons learned from this review and from case studies presented provide useful guidance for environmental managers aiming to develop collaborative approaches and co-management opportunities with Indigenous people for effective water resources management. View Full-Text
Keywords: water resources; Indigenous; co-management; policies; water rights water resources; Indigenous; co-management; policies; water rights
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Tsatsaros, J.H.; Wellman, J.L.; Bohnet, I.C.; Brodie, J.E.; Valentine, P. Indigenous Water Governance in Australia: Comparisons with the United States and Canada. Water 2018, 10, 1639.

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