A report into the first five years of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan has found three areas requiring more work.
The report, released last week, found progress had been made, with the recovering of 2100Gl of water for the environment, but more work was needed in the development of Water Resource Plans, stronger compliance regimes, and better ways of measuring water take.
Basin authority chief executive officer Phil Glyde said the MDBA would be increasing resourcing for assessing Water Resource Plans, and strengthening its compliance functions, including setting up a dedicated Compliance and Enforcement Branch to take a more proactive approach to overseeing compliance across the basin.
‘‘Already 2108Gl of water has been recovered or contracted to be recovered for the environment, and with the expected operation of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism, the water recovery task is likely to be mostly complete,’’ Mr Glyde said.
‘‘Government investments in water savings have been an important component of water recovery that has helped reduce the impact on agricultural industries and communities, and modernise irrigation infrastructure and delivery networks.’’
The basin plan’s monitoring and evaluation program requires five-yearly reporting on the outcomes and effectiveness of the basin plan.
‘‘Water recovery sits at 77 per cent of the original target, but is likely to be almost complete once the work currently under way to adjust the sustainable diversion limits (SDLs) is finalised,’’ the report found.
‘‘This recovery has been achieved through a variety of innovative means that have acted to keep the buyback of water entitlements to a minimum.
‘‘As a result, the potential impacts on irrigation industries and communities across the basin are likely to be less than originally envisaged.
‘‘The basin economy, including agriculture, has continued to grow and impacts from the basin plan are hard to discern at the basin scale.
‘‘But the effects have nevertheless been felt within basin communities. These effects are likely to be unevenly spread because it is influenced by the volume of recovery in each community, how it was recovered, as well as the social and economic circumstances of each community.’’
The MDBA is undertaking further work to explore the differing outcomes at the local and regional scale which will be released in April 2018.
Mr Glyde said environmental water had so far been used in more than 750 planned watering events in the past four years, with environmental water holders working together to get water to priority areas at the right time.
‘‘There is clear evidence of positive local-scale environmental outcomes, with positive ecological responses including fish spawning and movement, enhanced bird breeding events and improvements in the health of some areas of native vegetation including river red gum forests.’’
■Copies of the evaluation report are available at www.mdba.gov.au/basin-plan-roll-out/2017-basin-plan-evaluation