The Murray-Darling Basin Authority recently released our draft determination of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism that finds 605Gl of water can remain in consumptive use and we can still achieve the environmental outcomes we want to see through the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
I believe this is a good result for communities and the environment and, if supported, will give all water users — irrigators and the environment — certainty for the future.
The draft determination is our assessment of a package of 36 projects nominated by basin state governments that identify ways to use non-consumptive water more efficiently.
If the draft determination is accepted there will be no further water recovery in the southern basin, as long as existing water recovery contracts are delivered and the efficiency component is implemented.
Our determination is the result of a long process undertaken over many years, where we worked in consultation with basin governments.
It started in 2012 and the assessment, while a key step, is the first milestone in the process that will deliver projects by 2024.
Many of the projects will change in some way during implementation. However, as a package we’ll be looking to ensure that environmental outcomes equivalent to 605Gl are achieved.
To enable this level of flexibility, basin governments have agreed to an adaptive approach to allow for project refinement based on further technical assessment, regulatory approvals and ongoing community engagement and feedback.
We, along with state government representatives, recently held information sessions in 13 towns across the southern basin, to provide context and outline the next steps for the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism. This included Aboriginal meetings in seven towns.
More than 600 people made the time to attend these meetings and I’m thankful for their time and constructive dialogue. We heard community concern about the lack of detail available on the individual projects.
I heard concern about changes to flow rates and potential impacts on low-lying private land.
I recognise that some of these projects would see low-lying floodplains more consistently experience modest flows.
All potentially affected landholders, industries and communities will be consulted by state governments on any changes to flow rates and no change will be implemented until all works are complete.
Affected landholders would also have access to funding to provide for improved private floodplain infrastructure and upgrade public flood infrastructure.
This is the beginning of the implementation process to ensure we’re using non-consumptive water as efficiently as we can.
Through the finalisation of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism, southern basin communities and the environment will have certainty of water access.
■For more information, go to: www.mdba.gov.au