Skip to main content
Go to search page
Published: 17 November 2021

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority met on 17 November 2021 in Canberra and by video teleconference. The meeting was chaired by Sir Angus Houston with all members present.

The Authority discussed current water availability and conditions throughout the Basin, with a briefing from the Acting Executive Director of River Management Andrew Kremor. Members were pleased to note the remarkable turnaround over the past year for all but a few areas. They acknowledged the difficulties currently being experienced by some Basin communities dealing with flood conditions following widespread rain last week. The rain is also inopportune for grain growers and other crops in the throes of harvest. The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting that December to February is likely to continue to be wetter than average for the eastern part of the Basin.

Looking to the year ahead, the Basin is in a positive position, with northern Basin storages at 83% of capacity in comparison to 27% at the same time last year. In the River Murray system, storages are approximately 93% of capacity now compared to 59% this time last year. Weekly briefings with stakeholders have continued to keep communities and landholders on the floodplain immediately downstream of the Hume Dam informed about the dam's management.

The revised River Murray Annual Operating Outlook is expected to be released in December and will provide guidance on water delivery strategies for the remainder of the season and help water users plan ahead. This summer, river operations will be different from 2020–21 because a large volume of water shared by the states is held in the Menindee Lakes and available for use in the Murray. With more water entering the lakes from the northern Basin following widespread rain, the Menindee community is enjoying having the lakes so full. While the lakes continue to be managed by WaterNSW, the MDBA will work with local stakeholders to build a clearer understanding of when and how the lakes will be used to fulfill demands downstream, with the need to call on water unlikely to be until the new year.

The Authority received an update on the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) projects. Members approved the 2021 SDLAM Assurance Report, which is an important tracking and reporting tool that the Authority has committed to preparing and publishing annually. The report provides transparency around the progress of program implementation and the Authority's consideration as to whether a reconciliation will be required. Members noted that last month the Australian and New South Wales governments announced $330 million to accelerate implementation of some of the SDLAM measures. In addition, New South Wales has started community consultation on the rescoped Yanco Creek and Menindee projects, known as the Better Baaka and Better Bidgee. Members look forward to these project changes being formally notified to the MDBA.

Professor Rob Vertessy, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Social, Economic and Environmental Sciences, provided feedback on the MDBA's science foundations and technical direction in preparation for the agency's work ahead. Professor Vertessy encouraged ongoing collaboration with the science community. The Authority continues to use the highly valuable guidance provided by ACSEES to inform the MDBA's science planning capability.

The Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations (NBAN) Acting Chair, Mr Michael Anderson, briefed the Authority with a comprehensive report on the current state of play regarding NBAN's activities. The Authority thanked NBAN for their ongoing contribution in the northern Basin, particularly with First Nations' engagement in water management. The Authority remains strongly committed to supporting NBAN now and into the future.

The Authority received updates on the production of the Basin Plan Annual Report, as required by the Water Act, and the report on the First Nations' involvement in the planning and delivery of environmental watering in the Basin. Both reports must be finalised before the end of the year and will be settled out of session in order to meet statutory requirements.

Meeting for the final time for 2021, Authority members expressed their appreciation for the hard work of all partner agencies, communities, and staff over the past year to drive progress in water reform and to build knowledge across the Murray–Darling Basin. Members look forward to the return to face-to-face engagement with the people of the Basin, whose contribution and wellbeing is of such vital importance to the nation.

The Chair, Sir Angus Houston has listening tours in planning throughout 2022, including to the Lachlan Valley, south-west Queensland, the lower Darling, the Barwon-Darling and South Australia, to listen and learn from Basin communities. Sir Angus sees this as a fundamental part of his role and will take every opportunity to share what he has seen and learnt with Ministers and government officials.

The next Authority meeting will be held in Cowra on Wiradjeri Country in February 2022.

Sir Angus Houston (Chair)

Professor Stuart Bunn

Ms Joanna Hewitt AO

Ms Susan Madden

Mr Rene Woods

Andrew Reynolds (acting Chief Executive)

Share this page

Subscribe for regular updates