The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder’s (CEWH‘s) Science Program invests in the Flow Monitoring, Evaluation and Research Program (Flow-MER). This program provides data, knowledge, tools and processes for evaluating ecological responses to the delivery of Commonwealth environmental water in the Murray–Darling Basin.

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Flow-MER provides the CEWH with evidence of how Commonwealth environmental water is helping maintain, protect and restore ecosystems and native species across the Murray–Darling Basin. CSIRO leads the Flow-MER Basin-scale project for the CEWH, evaluating environmental outcomes from Commonwealth environmental water across the Murray–Darling Basin on an annual basis. Our work enables the CEWH to demonstrate outcomes, informs adaptive management, and fulfils reporting requirements associated with managing Commonwealth environmental water. Flow-MER activities are undertaken at the Basin scale by a CSIRO-led consortium and at the area scale by a range of other providers (see flow-mer.org.au).

The activities undertaken for the Basin-scale project are summarised in the Basin-scale Evaluation and Research Plan 2019–2025.

The Australian River Restoration Centre manages the public Flow-MER website on behalf of the CEWH, publishing results and stories from both Basin-scale and area-scale activities.

Figure 1. The CEWH’s 7 Selected Areas within the Murray–Darling Basin – Junction of the Warrego and Darling rivers, Gwydir River System, Murrumbidgee River System, Edward/Kolety–Wakool river systems, Lower Murray River, Lachlan River system and Goulburn River.

Basin-scale evaluation

The Basin-scale evaluation reports on the outcomes of delivery of Commonwealth environmental water for each year and cumulative since monitoring began in 2014. The Basin-scale evaluation reports against Basin Plan objectives for biodiversity, ecological function, water quality and resilience. The evaluation is reported at the whole-of-Basin scale, including, in some cases, valleys where environmental outcomes from the delivery of Commonwealth environmental water are not actively monitored. Evaluation questions for each Basin Theme guide the assessment against Basin Plan objectives.

The findings of the Basin-scale evaluation are summarised in an annual Synthesis report. Findings at the Basin scale complement findings from targeted intervention monitoring (for specific watering events) and evaluations undertaken for each of the Selected Areas (reported separately here). A detailed evaluation of the environmental outcomes from the delivery of Commonwealth environmental water is presented in 6 thematic evaluation reports (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Basin-scale Project evaluation reports on Commonwealth water for the environment outcomes for the 6 Basin Themes as well as a high-level Basin-scale synthesis

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Basin-scale research

Under the Flow-MER Program, the CEWH invests in research to improve the knowledge that underpins the evaluation of environmental outcomes from Commonwealth environmental water. The Basin-scale project invests in research to support environmental water management and inform and enhance Basin-scale evaluation. Flow-MER research activities commenced in July 2019, investing in activities designed to improve scientific understanding of ecological responses to environmental watering in the Basin.

The findings of Basin-scale research are summarised in a Summary report. Research at the Basin scale complements research at the Selected Area scale (see webinars of research findings via Flow-MER Fridays). Research reports are available for all completed research (see the research page).

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Stakeholder engagement and communication

The Australian River Restoration Centre (ARRC) leads stakeholder engagement and communication for Basin-scale and Area-scale activities. ARRC works on focussed communication activities with the project leaders, project coordinator, project manager, Theme leaders and others. The team adds specialist expertise in stakeholder engagement, deep networks in Basin communities, and the capability to engage a wide cross-section of stakeholders in government, communities and Indigenous groups.

Flow-MER Fridays

This webinar series is an opportunity to hear first-hand the activities taking place in the Flow-MER Program. Each webinaris presented by one of our team members who provide an insight into the latest findings and progress being made in their area of expertise.

Recordings from the Autumn 2024 Flow-MER Fridays are now available:

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Future Flow-MER (2024–29)

Commencing in July 2024, Flow-MER is updated with expanded area-scale monitoring and an increased emphasis on First Nations participation. Under Flow-MER2.0, area-scale monitoring, evaluation and research is expanded to 10 areas in the Murray–Darling Basin, adding 3 new areas and expanding the 7 original Selected Areas. Knowledge exchange and First Nations Monitoring, Evaluation and Research are included at the Basin and area scales.

The updated program overlaps in 2024–25 with the existing Basin-scale project. CSIRO continues to lead the Basin-scale project in the new program from July 2024 to June 2029. A CSIRO-led consortium will undertake research and evaluation across the Murray–Darling Basin. Five Strategy documents guide Flow-MER2.0 and are available on the Flow-MER2.0 page. CSIRO and partners authored the Research Strategy and the Data Management Strategy.

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Further information

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Project team

The Flow-MER Basin-scale partnership
Flow-MER is led by CSIRO in partnership with the University of Canberra. Collaborators include the Arthur Rylah Institute, Charles Sturt University, South Australian Research & Development Institute, NSW Department of Primary Industries, the Australian River Restoration Centre and Brooks Ecology & Technology.

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Banner image artist: Nina Rupena. http://www.ninarupena.studio/