Environmental Water Recovery

The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Populations and Communities has recently announced their strategy for recovering environmental water in the Murray Darling Basin.  This follows the passing into law of the Murray Darling Basin Plan in November 2012.



Figure 1. Environmental Water Recovery Timeline


Figure 1 illustrates the intended process.  The key features are:


  • The Basin Plan must recover 2,750 GL of additional water for the environment.  This will bring the Basin surface water Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL) down to 10,873 GL.  The SDL is the amount of water that can be diverted for non-environmental uses (e.g. irrigation, town water etc.);
  • 960 GL of water for the environment had already been recovered up to 2009;
  • Between 2009 and September 2012, another 1,577 GL were recovered, the majority through water buy-backs;
  • In October 2012, the Prime Minister announced an additional 450 GL to be recovered through on-farm efficiency measures in the southern part of the Basin;
  • Including the 450 GL announcement, this leaves 1,623 GL still to be recovered by 2019;
  • The 1,623 GL figure can be reduced by up to 650 GL through the implementation of ‘supply measures’ such as environmental works and measures, rules changes and improved river operations ;
  • It is expected that 288 GL will be recovered through investments in irrigation modernisation and other water efficiency projects carried out under the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program (SRWUIP);
  • The remaining water will largely be recovered via purchases of water licences which are voluntarily offered for sale to the government.


Through our Murray Darling Basin project, RDANI will continue to update the Northern Inland community on important Murray Darling Basin developments, and we are pursuing economic development and project initiatives aimed at minimising the loss of productive water and offsetting potential socio-economic impacts.