Basin Plan annual report outlines continued progress
18 February 2016
The second full report on how state and Commonwealth agencies are tracking to implement the Murray–Darling Basin Plan was released today.
Chief executive Phillip Glyde said the plan was progressing well and that milestones were being met through the hard work of state and Australian governments.
"This is a very large-scale structural reform, which is being rolled out gradually. There are clear signs of progress as well as clear signs of stress as industries and communities adjust to the reform and to drying conditions," said Mr Glyde.
Last year’s work to monitor social and economic effects of water reforms was now helping to build a clearer picture about the multiple changes experienced by communities and industries. Mr Glyde said some irrigation-dependent towns were finding it challenging to adjust to different pressures, while other areas were adjusting well.
"Dry conditions in some areas have contributed to the pressure on some communities and industries.
"The lack of significant inflows into many of the basin’s catchments during the year means we’ve also seen a rise in temporary water prices, and we’ll continue to monitor the operations of the water market to ensure it remains fair and transparent.
"But no matter whether times are dry or water is abundant, the Basin Plan is our best insurance policy for the river system into future," Mr Glyde said.
Mr Glyde pointed to the environmental benefits arising from the plan, including successful watering activities by all basin governments in 2014–15, guided by the first ever basin-wide watering strategy.
"Careful reuse of water meant that more than 2000 gigalitres reached sites right across the basin. Watering has been directed to refuge areas in the north where drought has persisted, as well as for wetland and floodplains in the south, providing important habitat for fish and waterbirds and helping to maintain water quality."
Mr Glyde welcomed the additional $550 million invested by the Australian Government last year to help water delivery systems and farm infrastructure become more water efficient.
"Not only does this investment help make the most of every drop, it puts money into basin communities during these years of adjustment."
The annual report also recognised that state governments last year had continued developing projects that could reduce the amount of water recovery needed to bring extraction back to a more sustainable level.
Mr Glyde noted that an independent stocktake last year found it was plausible to reduce that volume by around 500 gigalitres, and potentially more with refinements to the projects, but this would depend on the quality of the projects developed by the state governments.
Salinity management has remained one of the big success stories, with all river users benefiting from improved water quality. A cooperative government approach has led to a renewed 15-year strategy to continue improvements to 2030, Mr Glyde said.
Next year the first five-year report will be produced on the social, economic and environmental outcomes of the Basin Plan.
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