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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 sixth 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.

Six 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 - July 2021

A tachometer for water resource plans showing on track status

Water resource plans

Status: Plans from Queensland, South Australia, Australian Capital Territory and Victoria are now accredited and in operation. The MDBA has provided guidance to Basin states 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

Water resource plans (NSW)

Status: Under Ministerial agreement New South Wales was granted a 12-month extension and provided all its plans prior to the revised due date of 30 June 2020. The MDBA is assessing plans and has identified some policy and technical inconsistencies with the Basin Plan. There is substantial work ahead as New South Wales withdraws plans to make improvements and address the inconsistencies that have been identified. The MDBA will work closely with New South Wales through the withdrawal and resubmission process to progress plans to accreditation as soon as possible.

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

Water recovery

Bridging the gap

Status: Water recovery is close to completion, with approximately 98% of surface water and 92% of groundwater recovered as at 31 March 2021. Progress to achieving full recovery is slowing.


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 constraints measures

Status: A proposal to fast-track design and implementation of 5 projects was endorsed by the Murray–Darling Basin Ministerial Council in April 2021. These are projects New South Wales can deliver by June 2024 and demonstrate real progress in achieving outcomes for communities and the environment. Ministerial Council also agreed to the re-scope of two major projects. Additional actions will be required to address other projects that remain at risk of not being operational by 30 June 2024.

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

Status: The Off-farm Efficiency Program has replaced the Water Efficiency Program in response to slow progress and community concerns. A major new project to further modernise the Goulburn–Murray Irrigation District will contribute 15.9 GL to the 450 GL efficiency measures target. Basin states and the Commonwealth are working to identify and fast-track other suitable projects for delivery by 2024. Reaching the full 450 GL target will be challenging.

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

Northern Basin Initiatives

Status: A joint government workplan has been published and there has been good progress implementing new management measures. Ten projects assessed by an independent panel have been approved by the Australian Government, with 4 projects funded for fast-tracking to implementation. The projects will provide environmental benefits, stimulate local economies and provide jobs, including for First Nations people.

A graphic image of a tachometer for compliance showing a status of some progress


Status: Basin governments have progressed work under the Compliance Compact as a component of a broader compliance improvement. More work is needed to achieve standardised best practice regulation and compliance across the Basin, including improving water take accountability through metering reforms. The Australian Government is establishing a Commonwealth Inspector-General of Water Compliance to give the community confidence that water is managed within the rules.


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

Environmental water delivery


Environmental water delivery continues to maximize the outcomes from the available water, and this has served the river system well, particularly through the recent drought. Collaboration between river operators and across jurisdictions to improve and mature water for the environment delivery processes needs to be ongoing.

A joint effort to improve communication is underway to provide communities with confidence that water for the environment is achieving outcomes.



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: 30 Aug 2021  •   MDBA reports