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Managing constraints

A ‘constraint’ is a technical term for anything that reduces the ability to deliver water for the environment. Constraints can include physical restrictions such as low lying bridges, crossings or private land. Constraints can also include operational aspects such as river rules or operating practices. These ‘constraints’ mean we are not running the river system as efficiently as we could.

In 2012, Basin state governments asked the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to develop a Constraints Management Strategy to investigate how water can get to where it’s needed, when it’s needed while avoiding or mitigating impacts to riparian landholders, communities and industries. The Constraints Management Strategy set out a process for:

  • investigating small overbank flows to connect rivers to floodplains more often for a healthy floodplain environment
  • investigating any impacts of these flows on people and property
  • ensuring any effects of these flows can be addressed before the flows proceed
  • making the most efficient use of environmental water.
  • an occasional small increase in flow heights or rates to allow water to reach key floodplain wetlands that are currently missing out on being watered due to the current regulated flow level.

Constraints projects

The Constraints Management Strategy focuses on 7 key areas in the Basin to investigate options for addressing constraints. Projects have been proposed in the following areas:

  • Hume to Yarrawonga
  • Yarrawonga to Wakool Junction
  • Goulburn
  • Murrumbidgee
  • Lower Darling
  • Gwydir
  • Lower Murray (South Australia).

Basin state governments are responsible for delivering the projects at a local level, including consulting with communities and detailed project design and implementation.

Projects to address constraints in all key focus areas, except the Gwydir, are part of the package of projects submitted by states through the sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism process.

The Gwydir project will be further developed by the New South Wales state government, and was not considered as part of the adjustment to sustainable diversion limits.

Basin state governments have until 2024 to work with communities to design and implement the constraints projects.

Basin governments are committed to working with all potentially affected land holders, industries and communities to implement constraints projects. Any changes to flow rates over the long term will require extensive on the ground consultation.

The MDBA is required to report on progress of the Constraints Management Strategy as part of the Basin Plan. Relevant MDBA reports are available, including annual reports and pre-feasibility reports for the different river reaches being investigated. For more information on constraints projects, please contact the relevant state agency.

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Updated: 20 Dec 2021