The northern Murray-Darling Basin has unique conditions that present very different water management challenges than in the southern Basin.
Following the Northern Basin Review, a range of Australian Government supported initiatives have been put in place to achieve healthy working river systems in the northern Basin. These measures have a focus on complementing Basin Plan implementation by addressing the specific northern Basin water management challenges.
Northern Basin Toolkit measures
The Northern Basin Toolkit measures include 6 measures that are designed to improve environmental outcomes in the northern Basin using less water. They support an additional 70 GL of water being kept in productive use in the northern Basin and provide a much needed economic stimulus to communities in the region.
To maintain healthy working rivers a strong compliance culture is required. This is important to ensure a level playing field for all water users to help protect environmental flows. The following measures have been put in place to support compliance in the Northern Basin.
Inspector General of Water Compliance
The Office of the Inspector General of Water Compliance has been established to provide an independent regulator to strengthen Basin Plan compliance and enforcement.
Murray–Darling Basin Authority’s Review of compliance and enforcement
The Australian Government strengthened compliance with Basin water laws by implementing key recommendations of the MDBA’s Murray–Darling Basin water compliance review. This resulted in the Basin Compliance Compact in 2018 that ensures Australian and state governments take a consistent and transparent approach to compliance and enforcement.
The Hydrometric Networks and Remote Sensing Program has been set up to provide better access to accurate information for stronger assessment of water use and compliance.
There are 4 projects under the program including:
- Building a water information portal and supporting systems
- Boosting cross border measurement and monitoring
- Developing an online water accounting and reporting tool
- Operationalising remote-sensing and spatial tools
Progress on these projects can be found on the MDBA’s Enhancing water monitoring and information webpage.
Additional compliance initiatives
- Northern Murray-Darling Basin Metering Program.
- Enhancing real time monitoring (satellite and live-stream river flows to the internet) at key sites in the northern Basin.
Improving outcomes for Indigenous people
The river systems of the northern Basin are culturally, spiritually and economically significant to First Nations people and are vitally important to the wellbeing of Indigenous communities.
The Australian Government has committed $40 million to support Murray–Darling Basin Indigenous communities’ investment in cultural and economic water entitlements and associated planning activities.
The $40 million is to be split equally between Indigenous communities in the northern and southern Murray–Darling Basin.
Working to identify water entitlements
The Australian Government is working with the New South Wales and Queensland governments to identify water entitlements in the northern Basin that could be allocated to Indigenous communities.
These entitlements may be made available to support cultural and economic concerns that Indigenous communities identify as important. For example, Queensland’s Warrego–Paroo–Nebine water resource plan sets aside 900ML of unallocated surface water and 10,000ML of unallocated groundwater for community or Indigenous purposes.
Additional support for Indigenous values, priorities and interests
Additional initiatives include:
- Stimulating South Queensland Sheep Production – Building Strategic Alliance in Southwest Lamb Supply Chains (Paroo Sheep Meat Value Chain Hub) project – the Federal Financial Agreement for the Stimulating South Queensland Sheep Production project is available on the Federal Financial Relations website
- Cunnamulla Artesian Hot Springs & Warrego River Walk Experience Project – the Federal Financial Agreement for the Cunnamulla Artesian Hot Springs and Warrego River Walk Experience project is available on the Federal Financial Relations website
- Local Engagement Facilitator for Collarenebri and Warren – the Federal Financial Agreement for the Local Engagement Facilitator for Collarenebri and Warren project is available on the Federal Financial Relations website
- legislative change to enable the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation to buy water entitlements as well as land passed the Australian Parliament in 2018
- prioritising Indigenous and local suppliers to deliver environmental works in the northern Basin that have been agreed to as part of Northern Basin Toolkit measures
- supporting projects associated with cultural gatherings and low-impact water recreation, including options to refurbish weirs at Wilcannia (NSW) and Cunnamulla (Qld)
- annual reporting by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority started in 2018 on how Indigenous values and water uses are considered in environmental water use and how Indigenous people are involved in decision‑making
- the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder includes First Nations peoples’ values and knowledge in the planning and management of water for the environment – learn more about how we are working with First Nations.
Initiatives for environmental protection in the Northern Basin:
- Further investment in the Toorale Water Infrastructure Project to better connect the Warrego and Darling Rivers.
- Fencing northern Basin riverbanks to improve water quality and outcomes for native fish. Applications can be made by eligible landholders through NSW Local Land Services or Southern Queensland Landscapes.
- Protecting environmental flows – The Australian Government has worked with the New South Wales and Queensland governments to establish mechanisms to protect environmental flows.
- Expanding research on the Murray-Darling Basin for better water and environmental management and to address knowledge gaps.