Basin Plan annual report 2013–14

Basin Plan annual report 2013–14

Key information

Working together

Governments are working well together and have developed new forums to progress different elements of the Basin Plan. In 2013-14 we held more than 145 community meetings across the Basin, seeking local input on issues such as constraints management, the northern Basin review and evaluating social and economic outcomes. We are also working with Aboriginal people to learn more about indigenous values and uses of water and what Basin water reform means for them.

Communities and industries

We have begun to track and monitor the links between social and economic changes in the Basin and the Basin Plan. In 2013-14, this included meeting and interviewing a wide range of people across the Basin to help understand the effects of water reforms on communities and industries. We are also developing social and economic indicators and economic models to help track and understand the drivers of change – and a series of case studies into particular regions and sectors such as cotton and dairy farming.

Delivering environmental water

By June 2014, 1,904 gigalitres (GL) were recovered for environmental watering – this is around 70% of the recovery target. In 2013-14, for the first time environmental watering was undertaken according to Basin-wide priorities. Governments worked together to combine holdings and maximise the results they could achieve through watering events. Local communities also provided input to decisions about environmental watering.

Watering benefits

We saw early successes in environmental watering with waterbirds, native fish, native vegetation and water quality greatly benefiting from watering events. The watering improved flows along rivers and helped connect rivers to their floodplains. Environmental watering was guided by natural cues. In the drier north, watering focused on maintaining ecosystem functions and resilience while in the south, larger scale events were able to support water bird and native fish breeding.

Some benefits are already evident, such as early successes in environmental watering at a Basin scale. Other work is ongoing, including developing measures to evaluate the effects of the Basin Plan on communities, exploring how to address physical and operational constraints to delivering environmental water, and learning more about environmental water needs in the northern Basin.


  • There was a real contrast between conditions in the north and the south. In the northern Basin rainfall was below average and large areas were declared to be in drought, whilst in the south many areas had above-average rainfall. This has affected results for agriculture and environmental watering across the two regions.
  • The MDBA, Basin states and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder formally agreed on how they would work together to implement the Basin Plan.
  • The Australian Government invested $508 million in water-efficient infrastructure and $56 million on water 'buybacks' to recover water for the environment, bringing the total water recovered to around 70% of the water recovery target.
  • Work commenced on industry and community case studies for areas that are most likely to be affected by water reforms. This includes the mid-Murrumbidgee and northern Basin, and cotton and dairy farming.
  • The MDBA worked with Aboriginal advisory groups to trial the Aboriginal Cultural Flows Health Indicator. The Aboriginal Cultural Flows Health Indicator is a tool for Aboriginal communities to consistently measure and prioritise river and wetland health so that they are better placed to negotiate for their Country's water needs.
  • New water trading rules commenced on 1 July 2014. The rules will make it easier for water users to take advantage of market opportunities.
  • Water quality and salinity targets were met in 2013–14, although the effects of the Millennium Drought can still be seen in the five-year averages measured at Milang in South Australia.
  • The Basin-wide environmental watering strategy was developed and released in November 2014. The strategy guides the use of environmental water across the Basin and outlines expected environmental outcomes that the MDBA will use to evaluate the effectiveness of the Basin Plan.
  • The MDBA published the constraints management strategy. It will help governments and the community address barriers to achieving better environmental outcomes.
  • The method for adjusting sustainable diversion limits (SDLs) was developed and Basin state governments brought forward 17 proposals for consideration.
  • The MDBA worked with scientific experts and the Northern Basin Advisory Committee to improve knowledge about environmental water requirements in the Northern Basin.

Basin government reports

Each year, as part of the Basin Plan's monitoring and evaluation program Basin governments report on how they are implementing different elements of the Basin Plan.

The reporting requirements are set out in Schedule 12 of the Basin Plan. Schedule 12 requires Basin governments to report on a range of different matters from environmental watering and water quality, to water trading and water resource planning.

Some reports are required annually, while others feed into a more comprehensive evaluation report which is prepared every five years. 

Basin governments reported against Schedule 12 matters for the first time in 2013–14. Their reports covered local community involvement and influence, environmental watering, and managing water quality and salinity.

In future years, as more elements of the Basin Plan are rolled out, the reports will cover a wider range of matters. For example, next year (2014–15) reporting will be expanded to cover implementation of the water trading rules.

How local communities influenced Basin Plan implementation

The MDBA's summary on how local communities influenced Basin Plan implementation [PDF] [DOC]

Full government reports:

Environmental watering coordination and principles

The MDBA's summary on environmental watering coordination and principles [PDF] [DOC]

Full government reports - environmental water use:

Full government reports - environmental watering coordination and principles:

Managing water quality and salinity

The MDBA's summary on managing water quality and salinity [PDF] [DOC]

Full government reports: