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Published: 31 May 2022

The Basin Officials Committee (BOC) met via videoconference on 6 April 2022*.

The BOC noted the announcement of a 12-month independent technical assessment of infrastructure in the southern Murray–Darling Basin. It was discussed that the Terms of Reference and membership of the Modernising Murray River Systems technical panel would be developed in consultation with Basin states.

Delivery of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) program continued to be a key focus, with the BOC acknowledging the success of collaborative action taken during 2021 to better understand, report on and address delivery risks. The BOC went on to discuss key actions required during 2022 to address known delivery challenges.

As at the date of the meeting, the Australian Government had contracted $582 million and released $132 million to Basin states to support and accelerate implementation of SDLAM projects. The BOC also approved an administrative process for SDLAM project scope changes and noted principles that will apply when considering the integration of works or measures under the SDLAM program into existing River Murray Operations asset management arrangements.

BOC discussed an update being provided to the next Ministerial Council meeting on progress of the SDLAM program, potential amendments to projects that could enhance SDLAM outcomes, and the critical issues to be resolved in 2022.

The BOC also received an update on the development of the 2022–23 Joint Programs budget and noted progress of the independent review underway to ensure prudency and efficiency of spending. The BOC acknowledged that COVID-19 impacts and supply chain pressures will continue to impact Joint Program delivery into the 2022–23 financial year, noting that more than 80% of the Joint Programs budget is spent in regional communities.

With respect to River Murray Operations, the BOC:

  • noted that downstream flood risk from relatively high storage levels in the southern Basin should ease in the short-term with the 3-month outlook indicating average rainfall is likely during autumn, but that river operations planning will continue to have a focus on the potential need for, and timing of, airspace releases and preparation for flood operations in the coming months.
  • approved the Objectives and Outcomes (O&O) for river operations in the River Murray System to take effect on 1 June 2022. Changes include additional operational flexibility for Hume Dam releases to reduce the likelihood of environmental water being delivered above the downstream target flow rate following significant rainfall events. The revised O&O document will be published on the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) website.
  • endorsed an updated version of the River Murray Shortfall Response Plan (SRP) to include a scenario in which a delivery shortfall occurs when the Menindee Lakes are available under the MDBA’s control. The updated SRP will be published on the MDBA website while information on shortfall risks during the peak irrigation season is available in the MDBA’s River Operations Weekly Report.

The BOC also received updates from the MDBA on development of the 2020–21 Cap Register and 2020–21 Sustainable Diversion Limit Accounting Register of Take, as well as planning underway for the 2025 Basin Plan Evaluation.

The next BOC meeting will be held in Mildura in early June 2022 to coincide with the MDBA’s annual River reflections conference

*Publication of this edition of Out of the BOCs was delayed due to caretaker conventions.

About the BOC

The BOC has 6 members – one senior official from each Basin jurisdiction including the Australian Government – and provides advice to both the MDBA and the Murray–Darling Basin Ministerial Council on matters including Basin Plan implementation and Basin water management policy. The BOC also makes high-level decisions on River Murray operations. BOC’s workplan is aligned to deliver the priorities that Basin water ministers agreed in November 2020:

  • Support Basin communities through the Murray–Darling Communities Investment Package
  • Implement the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, including delivery of supply and constraints, efficiency and toolkit measures
  • Consider reform to the water market following the ACCC final report
  • Address deliverability risks in the River Murray system

More information is available on the BOC.

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