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Basin Plan Report Card

The Murray–Darling Basin is the largest and most complex river system in Australia. The Basin Plan is a major reform agenda, agreed by the Australian Government and the governments of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory. The Plan is intended to ensure that the shared water resources of the Basin are managed and used sustainably, in the national interest.

This is the seventh Report Card produced by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA). It responds to feedback from the community seeking short, timely updates on progress. Like previous report cards, our assessment has accounted for project status, delivery timeframes, and governance and funding arrangements. The report is also informed by feedback from governments, industries and Basin communities.

We encourage Basin governments to continue to work together, with the wider community, to implement the Basin Plan in full. We ask for particular consideration of the highlighted risks. There are many challenges ahead, and success depends on a collective effort.

Five key elements of Basin Plan implementation have been assessed. Some elements are on track, while others are at risk of delay. Until all components of the Basin Plan are operational, with the collective effort of Basin governments, the full benefits for Basin communities and the nation cannot be delivered.

Assessment – December 2021

A tachometer for water resource plans showing on track status

Water resource plans

Plans from Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory are accredited and in operation. The MDBA has provided guidance to Basin state governments on the process to amend water resource plans so the plans can evolve and adapt to new information and improvements.

A graphic image of a tachometer for New South Wales water resource plans showing a status of at risk of delay

New South Wales water resource plans

Over the past 18 months all 20 New South Wales plans were formally submitted to the MDBA, and then on advice from the MDBA were subsequently withdrawn for redrafting to make improvements and meet all requirements in the Basin Plan. Ministers agreed to a new resubmission process which will see all plans come through a second time for formal assessment in 2022. The MDBA continues to work closely with New South Wales to support re-drafting of the plans and progress toward accreditation.

A graphic image of tachometer for water recover showing a status of good progress

Water recovery

Bridging the gap

Water recovery is close to completion, with approximately 98% of surface water and 92% of groundwater recovered as at 30 September 2021. There was no Bridging the Gap water recovery between 1 July and 31 December 2021.

A graphic image of a tachometer for sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism show a status of substantial work ahead

Sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism

Supply and constrains measures

Basin governments have been working together to accelerate the planning and delivery of the sustainable diversion limit (SDL) adjustment mechanism projects. As noted in the ‘December 2021 Sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism (SDLAM) Assurance Report’, some of these at-risk measures impact the ability of other measures to operate as envisaged by the Basin Plan Amendment (SDL Adjustment) Instrument 2017. The measures’ interdependencies present challenges to achieving the originally envisaged environmental outcomes and anticipated water savings. There still remains substantial work to implement many of the SDLAM projects. Some projects are at high risk of not being completed by 2024, there are challenges to successfully achieving the originally envisaged environmental outcomes, and it is likely a reconciliation will be required.

Image of a tachometer for sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism showing a status of at risk of delay

Sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism

Efficiency measures

The Off-farm Efficiency Program has replaced the Water Efficiency Program in response to slow progress and community concerns. Basin governments are working to identify and fast-track suitable projects for delivery by 2024. Reaching the full 450 gigalitres (GL) target remains challenging.

A graphic image of a tachometer for northern basin showing a status of good progress

Northern Basin initiatives

Work has progressed under the joint government workplan. Ten environmental works projects approved by the Australian Government have progressed with business cases for 3 Gwydir constraints projects, and early on-grounds works commenced for the 4 projects identified for streamlined delivery. The projects will provide environmental benefits, stimulate local economies, and provide jobs, including for First Nations Australians.

A graphic image of a tachometer for environmental water delivery showing a status of good progress

Environmental water delivery

Environmental water delivery continues to improve the health of the Basin’s rivers and wetlands. Ongoing collaboration between river operators and across jurisdictions is needed to improve and mature delivery of water for the environment. Joint effort to improve communication is underway to provide communities with confidence that water for the environment is achieving outcomes.

 

 

Compliance

Following amendments to the Water Act 2007 (Cth) (the Water Act) and the Basin Plan 2012, the MDBA is no longer responsible for enforcing compliance with the Basin Plan. This responsibility now sits with the Inspector-General of Water Compliance (IGWC), which was formally established on 5 August 2021. The newly established IGWC has oversight of water management in the Basin, and inquiry powers to investigate the implementation of the Water Act, the Basin Plan and intergovernmental agreements, including the Murray–Darling Basin Agreement. In response to these new arrangements this Report Card has not assessed Basin Plan compliance.

 

Downloads

2021 end-year Report Card – read the full report
2021 mid-year Report Card – read the full report
2020 Report Card (assessment incorporated into 2020 Basin Plan Evaluation)
2020 mid-year Report Card – read the full report
2019 end-year Report Card – read the full report
2019 mid-year Report Card – read the full report
2018 end-year Report Card – read the full report
Updated: 03 Mar 2022  •   MDBA reports