Murray-Darling Basin Plan water savings target effectively reduced

The amount of water to be recovered under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan cold effectively be reduced by more than 600 gigalitres, following the recent Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial council meeting.

Ministers have endorsed the final package of Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL) Adjustment Mechanism projects at the Meeting. 

Under the basin plan, up to 650GL can be sought through environmental works and changes to river operational rules that deliver the same benefits for the environment, without direct water recovery.That effectively reduces the 2750GL water recovery target to 2100GL.

To date, 2050.6GL has been recovered through water buybacks and infrastructure works.The Murray Darling Basin Authority’s preliminary advice indicates the endorsed package “is likely to achieve an SDL offset in excess of 600GL”.

Ministers requested officials work towards finalising Commonwealth-state funding arrangements for SDL adjustment projects, and to report to the next Council meeting on an agreed approach to implementation.

Basin governments will notify the package of SDL Adjustment projects to the MDBA by 30 June 2017. The MDBA will complete their modelling and assessment, consult Basin governments, and then undertake formal public consultation in October-November 2017 on the proposed SDL Adjustment offset outcome.

The MDBA will provide advice to Ministerial Council on progress in November 2017. The MDBA will then propose amendments to the Commonwealth water minister for adoption by 15 December 2017. Ministers have committed to undertake focused engagement on the package of projects ahead of formal public consultation.

Ministers discussed the MDBA’s recommended amendments to the Basin Plan, including outcomes from the Northern Basin Review. Ministers reaffirmed their previous commitment that any changes arising from the Northern Basin Review should have no negative impacts on triple bottom line outcomes in the southern basin.  If any negative impacts are identified they will be addressed by the MDBA as part of the established review processes of the Basin Plan.

In considering the proposed Basin Plan amendments, Ministers made an in-principle commitment to the implementation of a comprehensive suite of new projects for the northern Basin, subject to funding being available. These agreed projects (referred to as ‘toolkit measures’), target improved water management and environmental outcomes across the northern Basin.

The next step will be for the MDBA to consider Ministers’ feedback on the proposed amendments, before providing a final proposed amendment to the Commonwealth water minister for decision.

ACT and NSW Ministers advised they have reached in principle agreement to the establishment of interstate trade between ACT and NSW. They will work together to develop necessary protocols in line with the Basin Plan trading rules by mid 2019. To enable the interstate trading and associated protocols to be actioned in a harmonised manner, the ACT advised that it will seek to align the submission and accreditation timeframe for the new ACT Water Resource Plan with the existing timeframe for the new NSW Murrumbidgee plan – that is by mid 2019.

Ministers reaffirmed their support for complementary environmental projects in the Basin. Ministers will consider further advice at future meetings on how to best embed complementary measures in Basin Plan implementation.

A list of SDL Adjustment Mechanism projects will be published on the MDBA website by 30 June 2017 as per the formal notification.

The Council of Australian Government’s – Implementing the Basin Plan Report can be found at

The agreed Terms of Reference for Analysis of Efficiency Measures can be found at

Original article posted in the Environment Report, June 2017 (link)


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