An expert in water management policy has launched an investigation of one state’s policies and practice, while water bills continue to rise.

Professor Bruce Mitchell is a Canadian expert in integrated water resource management, and has come to Australia for a three month professorship at Flinders University under the ANZSOG-Goyder Institute Visiting Professors Program in Public Sector Policy and Management.

Professor Mitchell will lead a program aiming to develop the nation’s knowledge and skills in the policy and management of finite resources, particularly water, while aligning with the priorities of state governments.

He will look specifically at the merits and drawbacks of three approaches adopted by the South Australian State Government to manage water and selected related natural resources.

The investigation will cover the period from the advent of specific advisory committees in the 1990s to the current model of larger natural resource management boards, which have responsibility for a mix of natural resources.

The study is considered most timely by some, as South Australia’s water bills have become the highest in the country.

“Until the mid-nineties South Australia had advisory committees, so if there were problems in a shared water system the Environment Minister would form an advisory committee to provide advice about the issue,” Professor Mitchell says.

“From 1995, catchment water management boards co-existed with plant, animal control and soil conservation boards but when the Natural Resources Management Act was passed in 2004, the catchment boards, plant and animal boards and soil boards amalgamated into one organisation,” he said.

“The boards went from about 60 separate entities down to eight, which was viewed as a step towards efficiency.”

While it is too early to draw conclusions about SA’s water management approach, he believes there are both strengths and limitations in the State’s current approach.

Professor Mitchell says another objective of his research is to understand key factors that facilitate or impede plans from being implemented, and what can be done to achieve more effective implementation.

His previous studies in Canada and the UK have been useful in defining how weather and climate information can be used in water management.