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Managing Constraints

Goulburn River at SeymourGoulburn River at Seymour. Photo by Janet Pritchard

Constraints can be physical structures along or near the river, like bridges and roads that stop water getting to some areas in the volumes and at times it is most needed. They can be practices that have been developed navigation and irrigation. Some practices, or even the absence of them, mean we don't use environmental water as efficiently as we could.

Constraints Management Strategy

As part of implementing the Basin Plan, we are investigating ways to get better environmental results for wetlands and rivers through addressing constraints while avoiding, managing or mitigating impacts to local communities and industries. The Constraints Management Strategy (CMS) was developed during 2013 through technical assessments and in consultation with local communities and industries. It identifies areas where changing constraints would provide the best environmental gains.

The changes being investigated are modest and aim to increase the frequency of some of the small to medium flow events that are already occurring.

An important principle of the CMS is that any solutions to overcome constraints will recognise and respect the property rights of land holders and will not create any new risks to the reliability of water entitlements.

There are three phases to the CMS:

  • 2013-2014 Prefeasibility Phase: MDBA undertakes investigations and consultations to provide recommendations to Basin Ministers.
  • 2015-2016 Feasibility Phase: Governments consider MDBA recommendations and develop proposals.
  • 2016-2024 Planning and Implementation: Proposals to address constraints will be considered by governments and implemented.

The CMS focuses on seven key areas:

  • Gwydir
  • Murrumbidgee
  • The River Murray, including the reach between Hume to Yarrawonga, Yarrawonga to Wakool Junction and River Murray in South Australia
  • Goulburn
  • Lower Darling.

What work has been done in 2014?

During 2014 we completed the prefeasibility phase of the CMS and provided the first CMS annual progress report to ministers.  The annual report provides the background and detail of the MDBA's key findings and recommendations to governments about which constraints measures should progress to the next phase for further investigation. It includes the results of the work done in key focus areas, the progress that has been made in prioritising the operational and management constraints, and the analysis and prioritisation of constraints.

In each key focus area identified in the CMS, the MDBA:

  • used inundation mapping to assess the impacts of various flow heights on land and infrastructure
  • analysed hydrologic modelling to assess the potential frequency, timing and duration of higher environmental flows
  • consulted with key landholders, councils and community members about the potential impacts of higher flows and options to mitigate those impacts
  • estimated the costs for options to mitigate impacts of higher flows.

Further information about the MDBA's prefeasibility analyses is provided in three technical reports:

The information gathered with Basin communities is being developed into reports for each key area, called Reach reports. Learn more about the Reach reports.

We've also done further work to better understand the potential effects on the river system if some river practices were changed or new ones were introduced. While there are many different river practices, the CMS identified nine practices that could help us maximise environmental outcomes by managing all water available to the environment. In the prefeasibility assessment, we scoped the nine operational and management constraints and identified those that make the most significant difference to achieving environmental outcomes. Three were identified as a priority. They are:

  • protection of environmental flows from extraction and re-regulation
  • delivery of water on top of other in-stream flows
  • environmental water to be used throughout the length of a river.

These priority policy measures are also being progressed through the SDL adjustment mechanism, where they are a mandated requirement under the Basin Plan for achieving an SDL adjustment, described as 'prerequisite policy measures'.

The work continues

At the end of phase one of the CMS, we recommended to Basin governments that we continue to explore the potential to relax constraints in each of the seven key focus areas through the feasibility phase. The MDBA is leading the feasibility assessment for the three River Murray focus areas on behalf of Basin governments as an integrated package. The Basin States will lead the next phase of work in the other focus areas.

The MDBA also recommended that Basin governments develop plans to implement the three priority policy measures. We will continue working with the Basin governments to help develop these plans.

Constraints Management Strategy

Last year, Basin Ministers requested the MDBA to complete a study on constraints as part of the Basin Plan; this is the Constraints Management Strategy. Learn more about the Constraints Management Strategy.

Feedback report

MDBA released a draft Strategy for public comment in October. A summary of the feedback and MDBA's responses has been compiled into a Feedback Report
PDF [1.03MB] - Word [756KB]

10 December 2014

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