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Climate change planning

The climate of the Murray–Darling Basin is changing, with a warmer, drier future that includes more frequent droughts and extreme weather events.

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority climate workplan

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has developed a climate workplan that will steer effort from 2021 to 2026, to work towards a sustainable, productive, and resilient Murray–Darling Basin under a changing climate.

The workplan has 3 phases:

A diagram detailing the three phases of the workplan

Latest progress

The MDBA is using the Australian Government’s Climate Compass developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to help government agencies assess climate change risks. 

Both the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and the CSIRO have provided comprehensive advice on climate risk to the Murray–Darling Basin.

This work was released as part of the 2020 Basin Plan Evaluation:

The CSIRO has also developed several river health metrics and a range of scenarios depicting future climates. The climate metrics help to understand the implications of different climate scenarios on river health. These are being used to inform how climate change will impact dry spells, flow sequencing, mean annual flow, overbank flows, freshes, replenishment flows, baseflows and cease to flow events. All 6 scenarios are being used during Phase 1 of the workplan. This analysis complements science being undertaken by Basin state governments.

Summary of climate challenges and implications

Future climate challenges Implications for the Murray–Darling Basin
  • Higher temperatures
  • Reduced rainfall and increased evaporation
  • Reduced river flows
  • Longer droughts and more heatwaves
  • Heavy rainfall to become more intense
  • More frequent bushfires
  • Less water available for all users
  • Increased pressure for efficient water use
  • Reduced water quality
  • River ecosystems under stress and changing
  • Competing water demands across sectors
  • Growing liveability challenges in regions

The Basin Plan

The Murray–Darling Basin Plan is a commitment all Basin governments made to work collectively towards a sustainable and healthy river system. It seeks to establish enduring arrangements for the benefit of all users – the environment, communities, cultural and recreational users, as well as irrigated and dryland agriculture.

The Basin Plan was developed to ensure climate variability and climate change would be considered in real-time, and climate change patterns, as measured over decades, are considered through regular reviews. Regular 10-yearly reviews of the Basin Plan are required to allow for emerging climate change patterns to be considered.

The Basin Plan has already helped cushion the impact of a warming climate during extremely dry periods, through emergency releases of water for the environment, strengthening connectivity and flushing stagnant water. Future changes to the Plan will need to actively consider and adapt to climate change as we strive towards a sustainable, productive and resilient Basin.

This workplan provides the foundations for the science, analysis and options to support the 10-year Basin Plan review in 2026.

Working together

Climate change is a challenge that will affect every aspect of our lives and no individual or single group can solve it. Community action and partnerships will be central to successful adaptation of many impacted areas including water management and planning.

The MDBA’s role is Basin-scale and considers the long‑term Basin policy and water management settings. The state governments are actively incorporating climate change and adaption into on-ground water management. MDBA is working collaboratively with Basin governments.

At the Basin Climate Summit in March 2021 many groups described how they are already adapting to the changing climate. The MDBA is committed to strengthening partnerships, collaborating and, wherever possible, co-designing solutions. As part of our everyday business, the MDBA involves communities in developing and sharing user-friendly information on climate impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation options.

MDBA commitment – take action now and establish foundations for the future


The MDBA will build on the adaptation work already underway by states and the Australian Government. We will bring water managers together with communities, industries, First Nations and governments to identify further adaptation opportunities.


The MDBA will collaborate with others to improve access to science and evidence for all stakeholders to plan for and manage climate change impacts in the Basin.


Murray–Darling Basin Authority climate workplan

This workplan will guide the management of water in a changing climate while helping create a sustainable, productive and resilient Murray–Darling Basin. It will steer effort from 2021 to 2026.

Climate change and the Murray–Darling Basin Plan – discussion paper
Summary: climate change and the Murray–Darling Basin Plan – discussion paper
Updated: 29 Apr 2022  •   MDBA reports