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The MDBA is responsible for overseeing River Murray Operations Program on behalf of the Australian Government and New South Wales, Victorian and South Australian state governments.

Part of this responsibility is managing and overseeing the structures (or assets) used to control flows and supply and manage stored water along the River Murray. These structures include:

  • three major storages (Dartmouth Dam, Hume Dam and Lake Victoria)
  • 14 weirs and 13 locks, including Yarrawonga Weir the main irrigation diversion point.

Other structures the MDBA manages are:

  • five barrages constructed near the River Murray Mouth
  • Environmental Works and Measures assets located at The Living Murray (TLM) icon sites
  • 13 salt interception schemes.

The MDBA does not manage the Menindee Lakes. WaterNSW manages the Menindee Lakes on behalf of the New South Wales State Government. However, under certain storage volumes there are operating rules which allow the MDBA to share the water in the Lakes as part of the Murray–Darling Basin Agreement.

There are several parts of the River Murray system that are not managed by the MDBA.

  • Menindee Lakes storage — this major storage is not managed by the MDBA, but the MDBA has the right to release water from the lake at certain times (the MDBA River Murray Operations Program contributes to the operations and maintenance costs).
  • Lower Lakes barrages — the MDBA does not direct the day to day operations of the barrages, as they are located in South Australia.
  • Locks 1 to 6 located in South Australia – the MDBA does not direct the day to day management of river flows in South Australia.

The MDBA also oversees the investigation, design, construction, operation and maintenance of existing and future major engineering structures or works. These include:

  • dam safety upgrades
  • major planned maintenance projects
  • environmental flow structures (pumps, gates or other structures used to deliver water for the environment)
  • salt interception schemes
  • fishways (also known as fish ladders or fish passes, which allow fish to move past weirs).

How the MDBA manages infrastructure

The MDBA, working with the relevant State Constructing Authorities follow recognised asset management principles to improve the sustainability of the different structures that it is responsible for.

The State Constructing Authorities are:

  • New South Wales – WaterNSW and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment - Water
  • South Australia – SA Water Minister who delegates SA Water and the Department for Environment and Water
  • Victoria – Goulburn-Murray Water

The asset management principles include:

  • Requirements identification (determine what assets are required to meet stakeholder needs)
  • Asset planning (determine the most effective solution to meet needs)  
  • Asset creation/acquisition (the provision, or improvement, of an asset)
  • Asset operations and maintenance (day-to-day activities)
  • Monitoring asset condition and performance (determine asset physical state and service level performance)
  • Asset rehabilitation/replacement (of the asset to continue to meet customer needs)
  • Asset rationalisation/disposal (an option when service is no longer required, or a more economical solution is available). 

Senator JS Collings Trophy

The Senator JS Collings Trophy is awarded each year to the best maintained asset (i.e. Major Storage, Lock & Weir or Barrages) in the River Murray system. The award acknowledges the good work done by lock, weir or storage managers and their staff when maintaining the structures and surrounding areas, including beautification schemes and bank protection works.

New infrastructure in the Murray–Darling Basin

The Basin Plan and the Murray–Darling Basin Agreement do not prevent investment in new water infrastructure in the Murray-Darling Basin. The construction and operation of new infrastructure does need to be consistent with the Basin Plan, and there are also obligations that need to be met under the Murray–Darling Basin Agreement, to ensure there is no backward step towards unsustainable water management practice.

The MDBA has prepared a guide to help new infrastructure proponents and water planners understand how water infrastructure developments intersect with water management requirements in the Basin Plan, and obligations set out in the Murray–Darling Basin Agreement.