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Current diversion limits for the Basin

Water is used for a wide range of purposes across the Murray−Darling Basin. Water from rivers, lakes and underground is used by communities, farmers and industries.

A significant amount of water stays in the system or is ‘lost’ through evaporation and seepage. Evaporation rates in the Basin are high — 94% of rainfall in the Basin is used by plants, or evaporates from land and water storages.

For many years, Basin state governments have regulated and monitored water diversions through their own compliance systems and under the Cap on Diversions. A new system of water limits have come into effect in 2019, replacing the current ‘cap’ system. This next phase is an integral part of implementing the Basin Plan.

A new way of accounting water

There are many forms of water use that will be fully accounted for under the new limits. This includes:

  • drinking and domestic water
  • industries
  • irrigated agriculture
  • water for the environment
  • water for stock
  • conveyance water
  • return flows
  • mining.

Water management in the Basin is changing

As part of this transition a new system of water limits begins, replacing the current ‘Cap’ system. This next phase is an integral part of implementing the Basin Plan.

 

 

The new system will be focused on sustainable diversion limits (SDLs).

SDLs are how much water, on average, can now be used in the Basin by towns and communities, farmers and industries.

 

Each area also has baseline diversion limits (BDLs).

BDLs are an estimate of water use limits and water used in the Basin, prior to the Basin Plan.

 

SDLs and BDLs are linked—any change to the BDL will then impact on the SDL.

Estimates of limits will improve as new information comes to hand.

 

Changes to the limits do not mean more water is available for use, this water is being used already or available for use under existing state laws.

Any updates will bring use into the new system, ensuring it can be monitored, and use does not grow over time.

 

Updates to water limits

 

Initial estimates for the limits were included under the Basin Plan in 2012. There are some diversions that have proven very difficult to accurately measure. This means these forms of water use are not fully accounted for in the rigorous way other water use is accounted for. This includes some of the water taken through floodplain harvesting and overland flows.

The baseline diversion limits need to consider the best available information, and will adjust as improved information comes to hand. The BDLs are a representation of water use limits and water use before the Basin Plan, it’s important that this estimate is improved so past water use or limits are accurately reflected.

Governments are committed to obtaining more information on diversions, and continuously improving measurement and monitoring—this means the BDL estimates could be updated through the accreditation of water resource plans and into the future.

As part of plan development, the Basin state governments may choose to conduct further modelling, consultation, analysis and measurement to review the BDLs established in 2012 and if necessary, update these for each water resource plan.

Changes to the limits do not mean more water is available for use, this water is being used already or is available for use—it is just bringing this use into the new system, ensuring it can be monitored, and use does not grow over time beyond these limits.

Estimates of the limits are expected to change through to 2024, as new information comes to light and efficiency projects (under the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism) deliver water for the environment. It is expected some estimates will change as water resource plans are accredited.

Reasons for updated limits

Further work is being conducted to improve accounting of some diversions including floodplain harvesting, disconnected streams, and in the future, may include farm dams and plantations. These activities may be included in the estimate of the BDL to improve water accounting, but this will take some time and may need further adjustments over time.

Since 2012, we have an improved understanding of how state policies work in conjunction with the Basin Plan and the Water Act. For example, at the time of Basin Plan development, South Australia’s water allocation plans were being drafted. Their estimates have improved since the development of the Plan, which improves the BDL estimate.

When the Basin Plan was developed there were some instances where there was no estimate on how much water was being used. We now have a better understanding of water use in these areas and an estimate has been determined, using relevant data and best available methods.

Compliance with limits

Usage will be measured and monitored, and the new limits will be enforced. The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) will report on water use by Basin state governments at the end of the water year.

Basin state governments are the frontline of compliance and enforcement, and are responsible for policing water use in the Basin. In each state there are different compliance rules and enforcement approaches.

Read more about compliance and enforcement.

Estimate of Murray–Darling Basin baseline diversion limits and sustainable diversion limits 

These are estimates that will apply for the 2019/20 water year, as calculated at 19 September 2019. Estimates are subject to change as new information becomes available.

SDL resource unit BDL (2012) Current BDL Reason for BDL update SDL (2012) Current SDL Reason for SDL update
NORTHERN BASIN             
Queensland            
Condamine-Balonne 978.3 1019.1 New information available and improved modelling 838.1 919.1 Northern Basin Review and SDL shared reduction reallocation
Moonie 84.2 92.0 New information available and improved modelling 82.3 89.9 Northern Basin Review and SDL shared reduction reallocation
Nebine 31.2 20.9 New information and improved modelling 29.9 17.1 Northern Basin Review and SDL shared reduction reallocation
Paroo 9.9 11.8 New information and improved modelling 9.9 11.8 Northern Basin Review and SDL shared reduction reallocation
Border Rivers 320.1 377.6 New information and improved modelling 298.5 363.6 Northern Basin Review and SDL shared reduction reallocation
Warrego 127.7 75.6 New information and improved modelling 117.2 55.5 Northern Basin Review and SDL shared reduction reallocation
Queensland subtotal 1551.4 1597.0   1375.9 1457.0  
Northern NSW            
Barwon Darling Watercourse 198.0 198.0   180.9 166.0 Northern Basin Review  and  SDL shared reduction reallocation
Gwydir 450.2 450.2   389.9 400.6 Northern Basin Review  and  SDL shared reduction reallocation
NSW Border Rivers 302.6 302.6   283.9 295.6 Northern Basin Review  and  SDL shared reduction reallocation
Intersecting streams 114.0 127.8 New information and Improved modelling 113.8 114.0 Northern Basin Review  and  SDL shared reduction reallocation
Namoi 508.3 508.3   479.0 488.3 Northern Basin Review  and  SDL shared reduction reallocation
Macquarie-Castlereagh 734.3 734.3   645.4 676.7 Northern Basin Review  and  SDL shared reduction reallocation
Northern NSW subtotal 2307.4 2321.2   2092.9 2141.2  
NORTHERN BASIN TOTAL 3858.8 3918.2   3468.8 3598.18  
SOUTHERN
BASIN
           
Southern New South Wales            
Lower Darling 60.5 60.5   45.8 38.2 SDL shared reduction reallocation and SDL adjustment amount
Murrumbidgee - NSW  2501.1 2501.1   1937.7 2048.9 SDL shared reduction reallocation and SDL adjustment amount
NSW Murray 1811.7 1811.7   1341.8 1496.2 SDL shared reduction reallocation and SDL adjustment amount
Southern NSW subtotal 4373.3 4373.3   3325.3 3583.3  
Australian Capital Territory            
ACT 52.5 54.7 New information available 47.6 49.8 Other – Legislative changes
Victoria            
Broken 56.2 56.2   54.6 55.9 SDL shared reduction reallocation and SDL adjustment amount
Campaspe 152.6 152.6   120.9 123.7 SDL shared reduction reallocation and SDL adjustment amount
Goulburn 1689.4 1689.4   1153.0 1316.0 SDL shared reduction reallocation and SDL adjustment amount
Kiewa 24.6 24.6   23.3 24.7 SDL shared reduction reallocation and SDL adjustment amount
Loddon 178.6 178.6   155.8 166.6 SDL shared reduction reallocation and SDL adjustment amount
Ovens 83.4 83.4   80.3 83.4 SDL shared reduction reallocation and SDL adjustment amount
Victoria Murray 1707.1 1707.1   1251.7 1308.8 SDL shared reduction reallocation and SDL adjustment amount
Victoria subtotal 3891.9 3891.9   2839.6 3079.1  
South Australia            
Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges 28.3 28.3   26.4 28.3 SDL shared reduction reallocation
South Australia Murray 665.0 665.0   483.1 526.7 SDL shared reduction reallocation and SDL adjustment amount
Marne Saunders 2.9 2.9   2.9 2.9  
SA Non-Prescribed (Murray Region) 3.5 55.2 New information available 3.5 55.2  
South Australia subtotal 699.7 751.4   515.9 613.1  
TOTAL SOUTHERN BASIN 9017.4 9071.3   6728.4 7325.3  
Disconnected Systems            
Lachlan 618.4 618.4   570.4 570.4  
Wimmera–Mallee 128.5 99.1 New information and improved modelling 105.5 76.1  
TOTAL MURRAY–DARLING BASIN 13623.1 13707.0   10873.1 11570.0  

 

Updated: 23 Sep 2019