Water Recovery Targets Proposed to be Cut in Murray Darling Basin

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Water Recovery Targets Proposed to be Cut in Murray Darling Basin

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority is seeking submissions on reducing the water recovery target from 390 GL to 320 GL.

The Murray Darling Basin Plan was designed to compromise the social, economic, political and environmental positions that exist in the Basin area, which stretches across four states, one territory and is managed by the federal government. The water recovery target is an environmental protection mechanism that works to secure a sustainable level of water within the river system. When the Plan was drafted in 2012, experts and community consultation came to agreement that this sustainable level would be 390 GL in the Northern Basin, in Queensland this is from Charleville, Roma and Toowoomba down to Bathurst, Orange and Bourke in New South Wales. The proposed amendment announced yesterday suggests 70 GL from this target is available for redistribution to irrigation use.

The Murray Darling Basin travels south, carrying the tropical rains of north Queensland to the River’s mouth in South Australia. Along this path, irrigators and communities access water. The Murray Darling Basin Plan works to secure equitable access across the jurisdiction served by the Basin. However, this redistribution of access under that Plan has impacted communities upstream. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority released a report last month looking at the socio-economic impacts on 21 communities in the Northern Basin Review. The Review found there was a correlation between the recovery of water and employment loss within these communities. However, the report also recognised that for some communities the effects on employment add to substantial, yet similar, changes already occurring in those communities for other reasons.

Last week, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority said that ‘reducing the water recovery target from 390 GL to 320 GL in the north will save about 200 jobs in irrigation dependent communities while continuing to deliver about the same level of environmental outcomes.’ The sustainability of this move has been questioned by environmental groups and indigenous stakeholders. South Australia has also expressed frustration over the premature reduction water recovery despite the Basin Plan establishing a specific timeline for delivery.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority is receiving submissions on the proposal. Public submissions close on 10 February 2017.


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