The Proposed Basin Plan
The second iteration of the Murray Darling Basin Plan was released in November 2011.
Across the entire Basin, the Plan proposes delivering 2,750 GL of additional environmental water, consisting of:
- 1,636 GL to meet local environmental needs;
- 1,114 GL of ‘shared reduction’ to meet downstream flow requirements.
Watch the More Than Just a Volume of Water - Part 2 Video
The Plan is to be implemented in 2019.
However, Chair of the Murray Darling Basin Authority Craig Knowles has stressed that these numbers can change, based on new knowledge which may come to light between now and 2019. See the video below for more details.
While the local environmental volumes are set for each water resource area (valley), the volumes of shared reductions in each valley are not specified as they will depend upon how those reductions are achieved (e.g. buybacks, water savings through works and measures) in each valley.
What we do know about the shared reductions is that:
- The Northern Basin (which includes the three valleys in our region – Namoi, Gwydir, Border Rivers) must contribute 143 GL to downstream flows;
- However, the Gwydir valley does not have to contribute any more environmental water, due to its low connectivity to the Barwon-Darling system (i.e. its low capacity to contribute to downstream flows), and the high levels of water buyback which have already occurred – 108 GL;
- The Southern Basin must contribute 971 GL to downstream flows.
So the situation for the entire Northern Basin and our region (the cells shaded green) looks like this:
Watch the More Than Just a Volume of Water - Part 1 Video
Chair of the Murray Darling Basin Authority Craig Knowles has emphasised that solutions to delivering environmental water will involve more than water buyback, and has encouraged local groups to put forward alternative methods for saving water which will improve water use efficiency both in river operations and on-farm, and can lead to the preservation of productive water entitlements. See the video below for more details.
Note that the MDBA will be reviewing the progress of environmental water recovery in 2015 and re-assessing the figures provided above. The diagram below shows the water recovery process to date, and that expected from projects already tabled out to 2015. The 1,068 GL to be recovered after 2015 may be achieved through other water saving projects, and this process is a key focus for RDA-NI. It is also suggested that the environmental water requirements may be adjusted if more efficient ways of delivering environmental water are found, thus reducing the figure of 1,068 GL still to recover.
At RDA-NI, we have been working closely with three local community groups to deliver the ‘localism’ sought by the MDBA. These are:
- The Namoi Water Working Group – which has representatives from local government, the CMA, irrigator associations and industrial water users;
- The Border Rivers-Gwydir Water Working Group – which has representatives from local government, the CMA, irrigator associations and NSW & Qld government;
- The Border Rivers Environmental Watering Network – which has representatives from local government, the CMA, irrigator associations, NSW & Qld government natural resource agencies, river operations managers and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.
We are working with these groups to identify projects and funding opportunities which will minimise the socio-economic impacts of the water reform process.