Proposed adjustment to Sustainable Diversion Limits

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has recommended the Sustainable Diversion Limit in the Basin Plan be adjusted.

Over the coming years, a suite of projects nominated by state governments will be implemented in the Basin. These projects will provide equivalent or better Basin Plan environmental and socio-economic outcomes, using less water. Therefore, more water can remain in the system for other users, including households, industry and irrigated agriculture, while still achieving environmental outcomes. In October 2017, the MDBA determined that 605 gigalitres (GL) of water can remain available for communities, through the implementation of the proposed Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism supply measure projects. Additional water for the environment will also be available through the efficiency measures, which will operate across the Basin through to 2024.

The MDBA sought feedback from the public on this determination throughout September–October 2017. The issues or opportunities raised by the public have been considered by Basin governments, in determining the proposed adjustment to sustainable diversion limits. A key aspect of the adjustment are the projects nominated by Basin governments. The MDBA recognises that there are varying levels of understanding in communities on these projects. The MDBA has reconsidered the issues and opportunities presented by the public and is confident in recommending a 605 GL adjustment to the Commonwealth Minister responsible for water.

Subject to existing water recovery contracts being delivered and the implementation of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism efficiency measure component, there will be no further water recovery in the southern Basin.

Public feedback

The MDBA’s Summary of Feedback report outlines comments from both the face-to-face sessions and written submissions received, as well as recommendations for the design and implementation of the projects. Individual feedback can be viewed through the MDBA submissions platform. This feedback has been used to make a recommendation to the Commonwealth Minister responsible for Water and will also inform the next stages of design, implementation and evaluation of the projects.

The MDBA sought feedback from the public on this Sustainable Diversion Limit Draft Determination throughout October. Throughout this period, 3185 submissions were received. In September and October there were 29 public information sessions held, with over 700 people across the Basin attending one of these sessions. The MDBA welcomes this substantial contribution and the feedback will be important in designing, implementing and evaluating supply projects. 

The MDBA’s Summary of Feedback report outlines comments from both the face-to-face sessions and written submissions received, as well as the MDBA's recommendations for the design and implementation of the projects. Individual feedback can be viewed through the MDBA submissions platform. This feedback has been used to make a recommendation to the Commonwealth Minister responsible for water and will also inform the next stages of design, implementation and evaluation of the projects.

Revisions to the Draft Determination

No new information or evidence was put forward during the public comment period to change the MDBA’s conclusion.

In the MDBA’s Draft Determination, the 5 per cent limit on the proposed adjustment was considered to be 544 GL. To remain in line with the 5 per cent limit outlined in the Basin Plan, this has been revised to 543 GL. The 5 per cent rule is explained in detail in the Summary of Feedback report.

What hasn’t changed

In November, a series of amendments were made to the Basin Plan following the Northern Basin Review. These amendments mean the recovery target in the northern Basin has reduced by 70GL to 320GL. There are also other minor amendments to groundwater, and technical matters which improve the workings of the Basin Plan.

The Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism uses the Sustainable Diversion Limit at a point in time (3 October 2017). The total surface water Sustainable Diversion Limit for the Basin water resources at that time was estimated to be 10,873 GL, and the five per cent limit is therefore 543 GL per year. These figures will be the reference point for the design, implementation and evaluation of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism package of projects, up to 2024.

Next steps

The MDBA has made a number of recommendations, including ongoing consultation and engagement from all Basin governments over the coming years. Basin state governments must commit to ongoing consultation with communities and experts in the design and implementation of projects, to ensure local and project-specific issues are considered throughout this process.

The MDBA will play a key role in monitoring the integrity of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism and the package of projects. To achieve this the MDBA will establish transparent regular reporting processes to communicate with Basin governments and communities on the progress of individual projects, and on the package of projects as a whole.

The feedback received has been used to provide advice to the Commonwealth Minister responsible for water– once approved, it is then tabled in Parliament.

This is just the start of the process. Basin state governments have until 2024 to complete the projects, and will work with communities, industries and engineers on project design and implementation. 

Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism timing