Faster Prescriptions for Environmental Water

View story in H20 Thinking

How much water does a river’s ecosystem need, when, and how often? These three questions underlie the environmental water allocations prescribed for working rivers, and they are not easy to answer, usually needing long study.

But Professor Angela Arthington of the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University and eWater CRC believes that science can now provide much faster workable solutions to prescribing environmental water allocations.

Professor Arthington is the lead guest editor of a special issue (January 2010) of the international journal Freshwater Biology which addresses the core questions above. The issue provides novel insights into the science and management of environmental flows, including papers describing advances via a new framework called ELOHA, and via three methods using Bayesian statistics.


The aim of ELOHA is to enable water resource managers to set scientifically-based, socially-acceptable, and testable standards for environmental flows.

Environmental flows are neither a luxury nor a competitor to human needs for water. A healthy, flowing river repays us many times over in ways both tangible and intangible. The ELOHA framework, and the Bayesian methods that can be applied within it, provide clear ways of demonstrating this logic.

While no panacea, when applied to most of our rivers, ELOHA will make environmental flow assessment much quicker and easier.