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International engagement and sharing knowledge

Australia’s approach to managing the Murray–Darling Basin’s water resources is world leading.

The Murray–Darling Basin is the largest and most complex river system in Australia. It covers one million square kilometres of south-eastern Australia, stretching across four states and one territory.

The Basin is home to 2.6 million people and unique Australian plants and animals. It also supports agriculture and other important industries.


Key facts

The MDBA shares knowledge and experience on multi-jurisdictional water management with other countries.

Australia is a leading global citizen in integrated water resource management.

The MDBA’s role is to oversee the implementation of the Basin Plan, developed and agreed in 2012 to manage the Basin as a whole connected system.

At its heart, the Basin Plan sets the amount of water that can be taken from the Basin each year, while leaving enough for Australia’s rivers, lakes and wetlands.
Providing water for the environment is a key contributor to meeting Australia’s international obligations for the protection of wetlands, biodiversity and habitats for migratory birds.

The Basin produces $24 billion worth of food and fibre every year, which is shipped around Australia and the globe.

There are 16 wetlands of international significance (Ramsar sites) providing habitat for many bird species.


The MDBA is the Australian Government’s authority responsible for coordinating how the Basin’s resources are managed in a sustainable way. Established under the Commonwealth Water Act 2007, the MDBA works with state government partners to oversee the implementation of Australia’s Murray–Darling Basin Plan, and to operate the River Murray.

An important role for the MDBA is sharing the knowledge and experience gained from implementing the Basin Plan—the world’s first multi-jurisdictional water management framework—with other countries facing similar trans-border water management challenges.

Each year the MDBA hosts delegations and study tours with water managers and leaders from numerous countries, and presents at and attends numerous international water events and forums, to share learnings on water resource management practice and policy development.

The MDBA’s experience in coordinating water management in a drying climate is particularly sought after by countries experiencing similar conditions.

Knowledge exchange and ongoing engagement

The MDBA contributes to the Australian Government’s international engagement on water resource management issues.

The MDBA maintains international relationships through co-engagement programs such as hosting overseas delegations and study tours from India, the United States, Nepal, France, Chile, Korea and countries in the Mekong River Basin.

As a member of the Australian Water Partnership, established by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2015, Australia plays a global leadership role.

The experience of building a multi-jurisdictional plan for managing water in an already overused system, based on the application of the latest available science sets the MDBA at the forefront of integrated water management water policy and practice.

The MDBA also actively participates in key international forums to showcase Australia’s water reform approach and the ‘lived experience’ Australia brings to such forums. Sharing knowledge and experience with the global water management community ensures the MDBA remains up-to-date with international best practice and helps facilitate our engagement with world-leading members of the scientific and water resource management policy communities.

One of the MDBA’s longest standing cooperative relationships is with the Mekong River Commission—the inter-government agency that works with the governments of the countries that share responsibility for the sustainable development of the Mekong River. In 1995, the MDBA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Commission and in 2014, celebrated 20 years of continuous and meaningful collaboration.

Updated: 14 Aug 2019