Murray-Darling Basin Plan

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has developed a Water Resource Management Plan for the river system of the Murray-Darling Basin (the "basin plan") with the aim to restore the river system to a healthy state.

The key element of the basin plan is to limit the quantity of surface and groundwater water that can be sustainably diverted from the basin's catchments/water resources for consumptive use (i.e. for irrigation and other agriculture, industry and human consumption, including town water supplies).

Sustainable diversion limits (SDLs) are expected to result in substantial reductions in water availability for consumptive use when they come into effect in 2019. This is likely to have significant socio-economic impacts on affected communities as well as impacts on town water supplies. LGNSW provided input on Local Government concerns through-out the development of the basin plan.

Final Basin Plan

On 22 November 2012, the Australian Government approved and gave legal effect to the final Murray Darling Basin Plan. The final basin plan is available at: www.mdba.gov.au/basin-plan.

The final plan is to be fully implemented in 2019 when state water sharing plans have to comply with the basin plan.

Surface Water Reductions

The basin-wide SDL for surface water set by the final plan is 10,873 GL/y. To achieve this, 2,750 GL/y of consumptive water use needs to be recovered based on a 2008 baseline.

SDLs are to come into effect from 2019, allowing for time to adjust. At 30 September 2012, 1,577 GL/y of the 2,750 GL/y recovery target had already been recovered through initiatives undertaken by both the basin states and the Australian Government (water buybacks and water efficiency/infrastructure investment under the Sustainable Rural Water use and Infrastructure Program).

SDL Adjustment Mechanism

The final basin plan includes a mechanism for adjustment of SDLs for new water saving initiatives. The adjustment mechanism is to operate within the range of 2,400 GL/y to 3,200 GL/y.

The adjustment mechanism will either allow equivalent environmental outcomes to be achieved with less water (supply measures) or increase the volume of water available for the environment under the condition that measures do not have negative socio-economic impacts (efficiency measures).

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