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Published: 12 December 2019   •   Media release

The latest report card on how Basin governments are progressing on delivering their Basin Plan commitments reveals great progress in some areas and room for improvement in others.

Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) Chief Executive Phillip Glyde said the report card focused on the Basin Plan's implementation but there were many other elements of water reform impacting on Basin communities.

"Since our last report card in June, the drought has worsened, and community tensions have increased as people question water sharing arrangements, water markets, allocations and the use of water for the environment. These are all serious issues that Basin governments are working on," Mr Glyde said.

The Report Card provides an independent progress snapshot across six priority areas of the Basin Plan – water resource plans, water recovery, sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism, northern basin initiatives, compliance and delivery of environmental water.

The water resource plans for Queensland and South Australia have been accredited and the plans for Victoria and the ACT are on track, however while New South has done significant work, 20 plans are yet to be submitted to the MDBA for assessment.

Water resource plans are developed by Basin state governments, assessed by the MDBA and accredited by the Australian Government minister responsible for water. There are 33 plan areas in total, 19 for surface water, 19 for groundwater and five that cover both.

Mr Glyde said water recovery for the Basin Plan was nearly finished, with less than 2 per cent to go to meet the target, however the scarcity of water made implementing the next stage of the Basin Plan even more challenging.

"The sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism projects – including constraints and efficiency measures – are progressing too slowly and are now at risk. These major and complicated projects are important to modernise the river, and without implementation by 2024, more water will need to be recovered for the environment.

"The Northern Basin initiatives are developing and there's also been good progress against the compliance commitments.

"The report card shows that environmental water is working as intended in drought and being used strategically to preserve internationally significant environmental sites, create refuges for important native animals, and improve water quality in the Basin.

"The recent suggestions that environmental water should be made available for irrigators is cause for concern. The Basin Plan was designed to ensure that water for the environment was used without interference or pressure as this water is vital to keep the rivers healthy, which benefits everyone.

"There's no doubt it's been a hard slog, especially during a drought, but all these elements are interconnected and need to move ahead together to form the foundation for a healthy and sustainable Basin," Phillip Glyde said.

"The Basin Plan is a long-term reform that remains a once in a life time opportunity to restore and protect the health of this great river system. It's had the enduring support of all Basin governments and this bipartisan commitment is more important than ever to deliver for communities from the top of the system to the bottom."

The December 2019 Basin Plan Report Card prepared by the MDBA is available here: https://www.mdba.gov.au/publications/mdba-reports/basin-plan-report-card

The December 2019 water resource plan quarterly report prepared by the MDBA is available here: https://www.mdba.gov.au/publications/mdba-reports/water-resource-plan-quarterly-reports

ENDS

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