SDLs good for southern basin

September 17, 2017

When the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was developed in 2012, basin governments knew they didn’t have all the answers.

Flexibility was built into the basin plan so it could be adapted and adjusted as the plan was implemented — the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism is one such measure.

It’s all about reaching the environmental outcomes of the plan, with water remaining in the system for consumptive use.

There was a lot of contention about the SDL Adjustment Mechanism when it was first proposed, but basin governments have moved on from this.

The SDL Adjustment Mechanism is going to achieve results and all the basin governments are committed to it.

A final package of projects was agreed to in June, which aims to use water for the environment more efficiently and also improve the way our rivers are operated. This means more water can remain in the system for other uses.

Our preliminary modelling of the projects shows they will achieve an SDL offset of at least 600Gl — this means no further water recovery in the southern connected basin when combined with existing water recovery contracts.

Basin governments are also evaluating ways in which up to 450Gl may be secured for the environment through programs that improve the efficiency of water use.

Under the SDL Adjustment Mechanism, projects can involve getting water to floodplains more efficiently through new infrastructure, or can also involve removing constraints on rivers.

The SDL projects come with significant regional funding to ensure that any effects on farmers and communities are mitigated.

Funding will provide for improved private floodplain infrastructure (such as crossings and improved pump set-ups) and upgrades to ageing public flood infrastructure (such as levees, roads and crossings).

Any changes to flow rates over the long term must first require extensive consultation with all potentially affected landholders, industries and communities.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority is currently determining a final offset figure for the SDL projects.

Once we have the figure, we’ll undertake more analysis before proposing amendments to the federal water minister for adoption by December 15.

We are also working with basin governments to ensure communities understand the ongoing implementation of the SDL Adjustment Mechanism projects and how they can contribute.

Community input is critical between now and when the projects are completed in 2024. The draft determination will be available for comment from October 2 to November 3.

The MDBA, along with state government representatives, will be travelling in the basin in the coming weeks to discuss SDL projects and how the mechanism works.

We were recently in Shepparton and Wodonga.

Details for the next public information sessions are available on our website at www.mdba.gov.au

I hope to see you there.

—Phillip Glyde, chief executive, Murray-Darling Basin Authority

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