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Review of compliance – Northern connectivity event

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) plays an important role in making sure appropriate compliance and enforcement arrangements are in place, to help to ensure there is sustainable Basin-wide management of the water resources of the Murray–Darling Basin. Various reviews, including the MDBA’s Basin-Water Compliance Review in 2017, raised serious concerns with the adequacy of the compliance arrangements for the Barwon-Darling.

The Northern Connectivity Event was announced in mid-April by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage. This event provides for up to 30 gigalitres (GL) of environmental water to be released into the Barwon-Darling River. Further information can be found in in the connecting rivers publication from the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.

The MDBA is working with the New South Wales government to review:

  • the effectiveness of the governance and management arrangements in place for overseeing the event
  • the operational processes and procedures to ensure compliance with the embargo.

The MDBA is undertaking the review using a range of tools and approaches, including:

  • site visits (meter reads, irrigation infrastructure and farm storages inspections)
  • satellite imagery and other relevant applications
  • standard audit practices such as reviewing processes and documentation.

In accordance with the MDBA’s policies, the review is being undertaken with openness and transparency – the findings will be published.

The key objective of the review is to learn about and improve the compliance systems that are needed to protect environmental water in the Barwon–Darling.

Eyes in the sky

During the Northern Connectivity Event, the MDBA has been using Landsat (25m spatial resolution) and Sentinel (10m spatial resolution) satellite imagery provided by Geoscience Australia. Images cover the Barwon–Darling, Gwydir and Border Rivers catchments. The imagery provides for additional evidence to verify compliance inspections. This proactive monitoring assists to increase compliance with the water rules.

Once the imagery is received, it is analysed to highlight water, vegetation and changes to the landscape. This allows potential water theft to be identified during the environmental watering. Any instances of potential unauthorised water use during the embargo are referred to the New South Wales regulator, the Natural Resources Access Regulator, for further investigation.

Identifying water in the landscape

Using satellite imagery water can be identified in the landscape. Images can be taken before, during and after environmental watering to assess compliance with water rules and to help identify any unauthorised use of water.

The Barwon River at Collarenebri after the flow event

The Gwydir River upstream of Pallamallawa during the flow event

Updated: 02 Nov 2021