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Published: 13 August 2019   •   Media release

An audit by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has found more work is needed before state government processes to measure and report on water use from a southern Queensland groundwater resource can be regarded as reliable.

The MDBA Executive Director of Compliance, Brent Williams, said the audit of the Condamine Alluvium area in early 2019 found several weaknesses in the systems used to register water meter readings and to ensure compliance with the Basin Plan’s new limit on water use.

“It’s fundamental to community confidence that we have a sound understanding of how much water is being used by entitlement holders,” Mr Williams said.

“The whole community wants to be reassured that the new limits to water use are strictly observed, that water users are doing the right thing and that we’re on track to meet the Basin Plan’s goal of returning the river system to health.

“The audit was an opportunity to check that robust processes are in place which enable all participants to accurately and reliably measure and report on the water consumed and the water returned to the environment.”

The Condamine Alluvium is a 4453 square-kilometre groundwater resource in south-east Queensland, overlaid by the Condamine River and the Southern Downs, Toowoomba and Western Downs council areas.

Groundwater is pumped from the underground aquifer by entitlement holders in the district for use in grazing, dryland cropping, irrigated agriculture, forestry and residential needs.

“Our audit focused on the processes around self-reporting by entitlement holders to the Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy (DNRME).

“We identified a number practices needing improvement. For example, entitlement holders must submit a meter reading twice a year but they are not required to validate the accuracy of their reading. This risks accidental or deliberate misreporting and creates inefficiencies in the need to manually rectify data issues.

“We strongly recommend that verification of readings be submitted as a matter of course, such a date-stamped digital photo of the meter, and that automatic reconciliation of meter readings with a licence holder’s allocation be introduced.

“It is clear that DNRME staff have extensive knowledge of the local area and its water management practices, and they use this knowledge well to deliver their compliance responsibilities.

“To support this work, we advise greater public access to key information such as the Natural Resources Compliance Plan and the range of penalties that can be issued to licence holders who do not comply with the rules.”

Mr Williams said that in conducting the audit, the MDBA appreciated the full cooperation of the Queensland Government. MDBA officers will continue to undertake similar assurance activities as state water resource plans are accredited and come into effect across the Murray–Darling Basin.

The audit report can be found on the MDBA website.

ENDS

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