MDBC Annual Report 2006–07 Home | Contents | User guide | Download PDF

Key achievements 2002–07

The Murray-Darling Basin Commission and its partner jurisdictions have been jointly managing the natural resources of the Basin since 1988. The period 2002–07 has been a time of unprecedented growth and innovation in the organisation’s programs and activities. This period has also been one of severe drought. For four of these five years of drought the Commission was able to maintain near normal water supply.

During this time there have been major achievements for the environment and for the 2.7 million people who live in the Basin.

Managing the Murray during record drought

The most important achievement over the past five years arguably has been to ensure the delivery of water supplies down the river system during the period of lowest inflows in 113 years. Since the seriousness of this drought became apparent in about 2003, the Murray-Darling Basin Commission has worked hard to communicate the worsening news to a broad range of people within and outside the Basin.

Cap reduces amount of water extracted from Basin’s river systems

All Basin valleys where the Cap is established except for the Barwon Darling/Lower Darling, have complied with the Cap, thus limiting the amount of water extracted from the system. Since the Cap was put in place in 1996 the aggregate level of water extractions in the Basin has never exceeded the level of extraction in 1993–94.

Bringing salinity under some control

Communities and governments have worked together to make significant progress in managing salinity levels in the Basin through the Salinity Management Strategy. Salt interception schemes now extract approximately half a million tonnes of salt from the Murray River in any one year.

The Commission now has a robust and agreed system of registers to account for and report on the salinity strategy.

Water trade halves the cost of drought

A successful MDBC pilot project from 1998 to 2003 proved the positive economic and environmental benefits of expanding interstate water trading between New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The Productivity Commission estimates that moving from no trade to intra- and inter-regional trade together more than halves the impact of the reductions in water on the gross regional product of the southern Basin.

Boosting populations and health of native fish

Things are looking up for the native fish of the Murray-Darling Basin with population numbers up, innovative new fishways being built and resnagging helping to re-create natural habitats for the fish.

Sustainable Rivers Audit discovers new exotic fish species

Even though it’s only two-thirds of the way through the first ever Basin-wide assessment of fish, macroinvertebrates and hydrology, the Sustainable Rivers Audit has already confirmed a new population of a nationally threatened species (Barred galaxias) and the presence of a new exotic species (Crucian carp) in the Basin.

Restoring the health of the Murray River

Infrastructure and water recovery mechanisms are planned and being implemented to take the program (The Living Murray) toward the target of 500 GL of water by 30 June 2009 (with most of the water entitlements becoming available in the final two years).

Carrying out the most active period of environmental management

The most active period of environmental management in the history of the Murray River since its regulation has occurred since June 2005. Intelligent application of small volumes of water at icon sites has resulted in localised ecological responses such as fish spawning at the barrages, growth responses of River red gums and Black box and breeding of waterbirds and frogs, including the nationally vulnerable Southern bell frog.

Working with Indigenous nations

A historic memorandum of understanding signed with the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations in March 2006 and the Cultural Landscape Plan of Management developed with the Barkindji Nation at Lake Victoria are just two major milestones of the MDBC’s consultation process with Indigenous people.

Creating sound scientific and technical knowledge

The MDBC’s major achievements have all been underpinned by first-class science and knowledge, especially through the MDBC’s Strategic Investigations and Education Program – a work program spanning 15 years, from 1990 to 2005.

Risks to shared water resources

Work has continued to understand, evaluate and develop management options to address key risks to shared water resources. This work has created the platform for the MDB sustainable yields project that CSIRO is undertaking on behalf of First Ministers.