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Water resource plans

Water resource plans are an integral part of implementing the Basin Plan. They set new rules on how much water can be taken from the system, ensuring the sustainable diversion limit is not exceeded over time.

Key facts

The sustainable diversion limit is the amount of water that can be used in the Murray–Darling Basin.

Basin state and territory governments use local and First Nations knowledge when developing water resource plans.

Water resource plans are key to ensuring sustainable diversion limits are not exceeded over time.
Plans will evolve and be adapted over time. They may need to be reaccredited in the future as they are adjusted and improved.
There are 33 water resource plans which include groundwater and surface water.

The plans complement and strengthen existing arrangements in each state to manage water.

 

Basin state governments are developing water resource plans. The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is working closely with Basin state governments to ensure water resource plans meet the requirements of the Basin Plan and address the local requirements of water resource management.

Each water resource plan sets out the rules for how water is used at a local or catchment level, including new limits on how much water can be taken from the system, how much water will be made available to the environment, and how water quality standards can be met. Basin state governments are responsible for complying with water resource plans and accounting for water taken from the river system.

Water resource plans outline how each region aims to achieve community, environmental, economic and cultural outcomes and ensure that state water management rules meet the Basin Plan objectives. The plans reflect current arrangements that are working and incorporate new arrangements that strengthen water management at a local level.

Getting the plans right can take time – local communities must have confidence that the plans are robust, high quality and adequately address local needs.

Water resource plans will continue to evolve and be adapted over time as new information becomes available. They may need to be reaccredited in the future as they are adjusted and improved.

What's in a water resource plan?

Water resource plans cover a wide range of water management subjects, including:

More information

Water resource plan progress

Water resource plans must be accredited by the Commonwealth Minister responsible for water. Basin state governments are responsible for developing plans and the Murray–Darling Basin Authority assesses the plans and provides advice for accreditation.

The water resource plan accreditation process includes a number of stages, for Basin state governments, the Murray–Darling Basin Authority and the Commonwealth Minister responsible for water. Much of the critical work for water resource planning happens in the development stages where plans are developed in consultation with communities and the Murray–Darling Basin Authority to meet local water management needs and Basin Plan requirements.

Progress and timeframes for accreditation

All Basin state governments have submitted plans for accreditation, however delivery of water resource plans is behind schedule.

The timeframe to complete water resource plans was determined in 2012. Basin governments now have a better understanding of the complexities of water management. Plans for each area must consider a range of detailed policy requirements and address the local context of water resource management, on-the-ground – this can be challenging.

Where WRPs have been submitted past the regulated deadline, the Commonwealth and relevant state Ministers are utilising processes set out in the Commonwealth Water Act 2007 to agree in good faith the deadline for submission. This will enable high quality plans to be delivered in the timeliest way possible, without the need for the Commonwealth to step-in and prepare a water resource plan.

In 2019, relevant Basin state and territory governments and the Commonwealth agreed to implement key elements of plans, where accredited plans were not in place. These were put in place through bilateral agreements (read the bilateral agreements). These agreements ensure that sustainable diversion limits and measures to protect and better manage environmental water were in place from 1 July 2019.

Where necessary bilateral agreements have been updated to ensure that sustainable diversion limits and better management of water for the environment remain in effect from 1 July 2020, even if plans have not been accredited by that date.

These agreements promote transparency and give the MDBA and the community confidence in the consistent application of key Basin Plan elements across all Basin states and territories.

 

Managing water is complex. It depends on a partnership between the Australian Government, Basin state governments, and Basin communities. The Murray–Darling Basin Authority is working closely with Basin state governments, as they develop their water resource plans. This collaborative approach will make accreditation as efficient as possible.

The MDBA will continue to report regularly on the progress of water resource plan development and accreditation, and we are further increasing transparency by publishing all water resource plans we receive for assessment.

See the quarterly report which lists progress against all water resource plans

Stage Water resource plan Responsibility
Assist – WRP withdrawn and being revised
  • Barwon–Darling watercourse – New South Wales
  • Darling Alluvium – New South Wales
  • Gwydir Alluvium (groundwater) – New South Wales
  • Gwydir surface water – New South Wales
  • Intersecting streams surface water – New South Wales
  • Lachlan Alluvium (groundwater) – New South Wales
  • Lachlan surface water – New South Wales
  • Macquarie–Castlereagh Alluvium (groundwater) – New South Wales
  • Macquarie–Castlereagh surface water – New South Wales
  • Murray Alluvium – New South Wales
  • Murrumbidgee Alluvium (groundwater) – New South Wales
  • Murrumbidgee surface water – New South Wales
  • Namoi Alluvium – New South Wales
  • Namoi surface water – New South Wales
  • New South Wales Border Rivers Alluvium
  • New South Wales Border Rivers surface water
  • New South Wales Great Artesian Basin Shallow 
  • New South Wales Murray and Lower Darling
  • New South Wales Murray–Darling Basin fractured rock 
  • New South Wales& Murray–Darling Basin porous rock
Basin state governments and Murray–Darling Basin Authority
Assess There are no plans in the assess phase Murray–Darling Basin Authority
Accredit There are no plans in the accredit phase Commonwealth Minister responsible for water
Operational
  • Australian Capital Territory (surface water) – view the plan
  • Australian Capital Territory (groundwater) – view the plan
  • Border Rivers Moonie (groundwater/surface water) – Queensland – view the plan
  • Condamine–Balonne (groundwater/surface water) – Queensland – view the plan
  • Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges (groundwater/surface water) – South Australia – view the plan
  • Goulburn–Murray (groundwater) – Victoria – view the plan
  • Murray Region (groundwater/surface water) – South Australia – view the plan
  • Northern Victoria (surface water) – view the plan
  • South Australian River Murray (surface water) – view the plan
  • Victorian Murray (surface water) view the plan
  • Warrego–Paroo–Nebine – Queensland – view the plan
  • Wimmera–Mallee (groundwater) – Victoria – view the plan
  • Wimmera–Mallee (surface water) – Victoria – view the plan
 

Water resource plan accreditation

Stage 1: Assist

  • Basin state governments have completed risk assessments, started planning and determined the process for seeking input from the Murray–Darling Basin Authority.
  • Basin state governments have been consulting with local communities, water users and peak bodies to ensure local needs are considered in any changes to regional water management through water resource plans.
  • This stage requires consultation with relevant Aboriginal Nations.
  • Basin state governments provide draft water resource plan materials to the Murray–Darling Basin Authority for initial guidance and advice.

Stage 2: Assess

  • Basin state governments formally submit their water resource plan package to the Murray–Darling Basin Authority to determine whether it meets the Basin Plan objectives.
  • The Murray–Darling Basin Authority assesses the water resource plan and provides advice to the Commonwealth Minister responsible for water.
  • Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations and Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations review the state's process of engagement with Aboriginal Nations and provide their assessment to the Murray–Darling Basin Authority. This advice is included in the package of advice that goes to the Commonwealth Minister responsible for water.

Stage 3: Accredit

  • The Commonwealth Minister responsible for water makes the final decision whether to accredit water resource plans.
  • Once accredited by the Minister, plans are operational.

Stage 4: Amendments

  • Basin states can bring forward amendments as water management evolves over time (including minor amendments).
  • MDBA considers amendment and makes recommendations to the Minister.

 

Infographic showing the 4 phases of water resource plan accreditation

 

Updated: 24 Sep 2021