The health of the Murray–Darling Basin is crucial to the wellbeing of Australian communities, industries and the environment.
Over time, our population and agricultural needs have grown. As a result, the amount of water being taken from the river system became unsustainable and the health of the Basin began to decline.
The Murray–Darling Basin Plan sets water recovery targets to bring the Basin back to a sustainable level of environmental health while continuing to support agriculture and securing the future of Basin communities.
The recovered water is used for a range of environmental outcomes. This helps to keep the Basin ecosystem healthy and thriving.
Water recovery targets
Murray–Darling Basin water recovery targets were determined through years of research and analysis based in:
- environmental science
- social and economic analysis
- historical data analysis
- and modelling of future scenarios.
This research and analysis identified a maximum amount of water that could be taken from the Basin while maintaining environmental sustainability. This is called the Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL). Water recovery targets were set by comparing the Sustainable Diversion Limit to a baseline.
Baseline Diversion Limits (BDL)
Baseline Diversion Limits are estimates of how much water was used in the Basin prior to the Basin Plan. Over the years, the amount of water taken changes due to community and industry needs and variable inflows. BDLs provide an estimated average of the amount of water historically taken from the Basin each year.
Sustainable Diversion Limits (SDL)
Sustainable Diversion Limits are the maximum amount of water that can be taken from the Basin while maintaining environmental sustainably. SDLs are calculated as a long-term average. They take into account modelling of future Basin climate and conditions.
By comparing the BDL and SDL it was clear that there was a gap between the average amount of water taken from the Basin each year and the Sustainable Diversion Limit. This gap became the Basin Plan’s primary water recovery target of 2,750 GL per year.
450 GL for enhanced environmental outcomes
The Basin Plan also includes a provision to recover 450 GL a year to achieve enhanced environmental outcomes across the Basin.
How is water recovered
There are a number of different ways water is recovered towards the two Basin Plan targets. These include:
- infrastructure investments
- water purchases
- efficiency measures
- northern Basin Toolkit measures
- supply projects
- constraint relaxation projects.
We have a number of open and ongoing programs that fund these activities.
Benefits and outcomes
When water is recovered towards these targets it is transferred to the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH). The CEWH manages this water to meet environmental needs in the Basin. This helps to ensure the sustainability of this precious resource and the animals and plants that rely on it.
The CEWH puts environmental water to use as outlined in their water management plans.
Many communities and industries depend on the Murray–Darling Basin. A healthy river system supports community wellbeing, culture and livelihoods. This includes for tourism and recreation, First Nations people, as well as the essential production of food and fibre. The Australian Government is committed to putting communities and jobs at the heart of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan to achieve a sustainable and certain future for the Basin, its people, industries and the environment.
The Government’s role water recovery
We are primarily responsible for funding water recovery measures in the Murray–Darling Basin. This includes:
- The Water Division – who provide policy and program funding for water recovery initiatives
- The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office – who manage the storage and delivery of water for the environment when and where it is needed
- The Inspector General of Water Compliance – who ensures compliance with the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.
Other Government bodies that play a role in Murray–Darling Basin water recovery include:
- The Murray–Darling Basin Authority – who, in combination with us, are responsible for reporting progress on water recovery and Basin Plan effectiveness
- Basin State Governments – who deliver water recovery projects throughout the Basin.