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Chief Executive update – June 2022

The recent River reflections conference celebrated water management achievements and discussed the future of our rivers as the challenges of a hotter and drier future confront water managers, the community and policy makers. Collaboration and commitment underpin the way forward, and the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) also shared the work we have underway to help prepare the Basin and communities for the future.

Andrew Reynolds

Executive Director, River Management

Andrew is the Executive Director of River Management. He has more than 27 years of experience in the water industry at the Commonwealth and state level, managing major water supply infrastructure, and is the immediate past chairman of the Australian National Committee on Large Dams. Andrew was the Acting Chief Executive of the Murray–Darling Basin Authority between September 2021 and June 2022.

Published: 16 June 2022

We were pleased to provide the new Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Water, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP with the opportunity to address the River reflections conference in her first full day in the job. Minister Plibersek takes on this important portfolio at a watershed moment, and I know that with her strong leadership we will be well placed to face the challenges of the future together.

We also heard during the conference we’ve come a long way since the Basin Plan was created a decade ago. Much has been achieved, much has been learnt, but there is still a lot to be done. A key theme that attendees took away was the need to respond to the changing conditions and climate by adjusting our approach when needed. For that, we need the full picture of what is ahead. We need to listen to, and learn from each other, and River reflections was the perfect format for exactly that. It was an opportunity to reflect on how we’re all working together, partnering with experts and communities, to make the Basin better for future generations.  

Understanding what the future holds is a key focus for the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), so when we undertake the Basin Plan Review scheduled in 2026 we incorporate the lessons learnt in the past 10 years and consider what the science and what communities are telling us about the future.

Authority Chair Sir Angus Houston told delegates that in the next few years we will release the Murray–Darling Basin Outlook. The Outlook will paint a picture of the health of the Basin’s water resources and ecosystems, First Nations priorities, agriculture and tourism sectors and communities in 2050. Essentially, this will be the first phase of the Basin Plan Review. We won’t do this work behind closed doors. We will share what we learn every step of the way, and cross-check what the science is telling us with the lived experience of Basin communities.

Climate change is no longer a future threat, but a lived reality for many in the Basin, and farmers irrigators and community members who spoke at the conference reflected on their lived experience. Words like ‘megadroughts’, ‘rain bombs’, ‘heat domes’, and ‘danger days’ have entered our common vocabulary. What’s more, with the investments in science and research partnerships we’ve made, we know much more about climate change than we did 10 years ago when the Plan came into force. And it throws down a unique challenge to water managers who have previously been able to rely on historical data to inform predictions about the future. We must continue to adapt and adjust if we are to give our rivers the best chance.

The MDBA is looking forward to welcoming our new Chief Executive Andrew McConville at the end of this month. It’s been an absolute honour to lead the MDBA for the past 10 months, and I very much look forward to returning to my substantive role as Executive Director of River Management. As I shared with conference attendees, I am eagerly anticipating working closely with Basin Governments in the critical final stages of implementing the Basin Plan. We have a once-in-a-generation chance to improve river management to allow water to move through the system more freely – in ways that would benefit people along the river as well as the river environment we rely on.

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