Australia's Murray-Darling basin has been cited in a new United Nations report that warns a global water crisis is looming and describes the important role forests can play to ease the threat.
More than 50 scientists from 20 countries, including Australia, contributed to the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development report examining the relationships between forests, water, climate and people around the world.
Forests, often described as the lungs of the planet, also act as the kidneys, with the report noting a forest's role in the water cycle is at least as important as its role in the carbon cycle in the face of climate change.
"Perhaps because the co-occurrence of forest and water is so common, water is rarely considered to be a priority in forest management," the report, released in New York on Monday, states.
The report examines the vast Murray-Darling basin in south-eastern Australia, its importance for providing water for irrigation of farmland, resistance to water allocation and the "panic and chaos" from farming communities across the basin when an allocation plan was released for public consultation in 2011.
"Even by early 2018, the debate over ecological water allocations remains unresolved," the report states.
"... Meanwhile, many areas of the floodplain forests of iconic red gums continue to decline, conflicts between land and water users remain, and many forests and former wetland areas are consumed by the increasing number of bushfires occurring every year."