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Published: 10 October 2016   •   Media release

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) today released a report outlining community level impacts of different levels of water recovery in the northern Murray–Darling Basin.

This report, along with environmental research and the already released Aboriginal community report are all important inputs to the current Northern Basin Review.

This research, and the upcoming hydrological modelling research, explores in detail the multiple and competing interests of the communities, industries and the environment that the MDBA needs to balance when considering if a recommendation needs to be made to change the water recovery target in the northern basin.

The MDBA report on social and economic impacts gives Authority members robust and relevant information about the effects of different levels of water recovery on 21 northern basin communities, alongside the projected river health and environmental outcomes.

The MDBA's Chief Executive, Phillip Glyde, said the research was peer reviewed and was important for deciding what, if any, change needed to be made to the current 390-gigalitre (GL) water recovery target in the Basin Plan.

"This community research shows the effects on jobs are highly variable across the 21 communities, with some communities not affected at all, while others at the upper end of possible water recovery levels are most affected," Mr Glyde said.

"Towns like Brewarrina, Coonabarabran, Chinchilla and Nyngan have a low reliance on irrigated agriculture. We have strong confidence that the impact of water recovery on employment in these centres is minimal.

"Other centres, such as Collarenebri and Warren, have already experienced significant impacts on employment and are not expected to have to deal with further water recovery. Places such as Dirranbandi however could potentially have impacts on employment if higher water recovery levels are adopted.

"This report also shows that the volume of water recovery is not the only factor affecting communities—the method and timing of that recovery is also important.

"We shared this research with communities in the northern basin as it was being completed and heard from them that the research aligned with what was happening on the ground.

"The government's commitment to prioritise investment in modern and efficient water infrastructure has been—and will continue to be—an important lever in managing potential effects on communities.

"Almost two-thirds of the $13 billion in funding for the Basin Plan has been made available for water infrastructure upgrades across the Murray–Darling Basin," Mr Glyde said.

"The Aboriginal research was a joint undertaking between the MDBA and the Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations and found strong support for retaining flows to protect community, culture and sites along the river," Mr Glyde said.

"Aboriginal people in the north of the basin see a direct relationship between river flows and improved well-being for their communities.

"The Environmental outcomes of the Northern Basin Review research shows the effect different levels of water recovery will have on achieving long-term environmental improvements.

"Before the Basin Plan water in the system was significantly over allocated—this was not sustainable for the environment or, in the long term, for the productive capacity of the basin.

"The Basin Plan is about delivering some certainty to water users so that they can get on with their businesses.

"The Authority is expected to make a decision soon about whether to recommend a change to the water recovery target in the northern basin.

"Before any recommendation goes to the Australian Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources there will be a minimum eight week public consultation process."

Links to the three reports are here:

ENDS

For more information, contact the MDBA Media office at media@mdba.gov.au or 02 6279 0141

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