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Developing water resource plans

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

The water resource plan accreditation process includes a number of stages for Basin state governments, the MDBA 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.

Stages of 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 First 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 (NBAN) and Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN) review the state's consideration of Indigenous values and uses in the water resource plans with First Nations, and provide their assessment to the MDBA. 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.
  • The Inspector-General of Water Compliance is responsible for overseeing compliance of Basin states with the accredited plans.

Stage 4: Amendments

  • Basin states can bring forward amendments as water management evolves over time.
  • Amendments can be minor or major, and the MDBA will tailor the approach for re-assessment based on the significance of the amendments.

  • MDBA considers amendment and makes recommendations to the Minister.

Infographic showing the 4 phases of water resource plan accreditation

Progress and timeframes for accreditation 

All Basin state governments have developed water resource plans, 13 of the plans are operational and 20 plans are with New South Wales for re-drafting and re-submission.. 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 water resource plans have been submitted past the regulated deadline, the Commonwealth and relevant state Ministers are utilising processes set out in the Water Act 2007 (Cth) to agree in good faith new timeframes for submission. This will enable high quality plans to be delivered, without the need for the Commonwealth to step in and prepare a water resource plan. 

Bilateral agreement for New South Wales

Where accredited plans are not in place, the Basin state and Commonwealth Governments agreed to implement key elements of plans through bilateral agreements. There is currently a bilateral agreement in place with New South Wales, while they continue drafting their 20 plans for resubmission. The agreement ensures that key Basin Plan elements, including sustainable diversion limits and measures to protect and better manage environmental water, were in place from 1 July 2019. The agreement promotes transparency and gives the MDBA and the community confidence in the consistent application of key Basin Plan elements across all Basin states.

Updated: 22 Dec 2021