MDBA urges accelerated progress

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has released its first progress report into water efficiency projects, finding that more must be done to deliver on the three major initiatives by the 2024 deadline.

Under the Basin Plan three core project areas have been put in place; supply measures, constraints and efficiency measures.

The report singles out the need for improved funding arrangements and governance of the river, concluding that there is still need for greater transparency in the management and reporting of the river.

The MDBA notes progress in some areas, but there is also still a substantial amount of work to be done, with some risks and challenges to the successful delivery of the Sustainable Diversion Limite Adjustment Program (SDLAM).

Basin state governments have committed to the delivery of all adjustment projects, however there are a number of key issues to address to ensure implementation remains on track.

This includes appropriate governance and funding arrangements to allow program roll out, and ensuring a high level of engagement and transparency on projects at the local level and more broadly. Communities need to be strongly involved and informed in project design and delivery early in the process.

The report finds that progress in the delivery of efficiency projects remains slow. The full SDL adjustment of 605 GL is subject to 62 GL being recovered through efficiency measures by 1 July 2019, maintaining the SDL change to within the five percent allowed for in the Basin Plan.

While Basin Ministers have agreed that the first priority for efficiency measures is to recover the 62 GL required by 1 July 2019, a pathway to achieving this goal is not clear at this point. As further efficiency measures are delivered beyond 30 June 2019, the gap in water recovery will be progressively closed.

However, water use will need to comply with the relevant SDL for each water accounting year. Concerns have also been raised by a number of stakeholders, and in the Productivity Commission’s recent review of Basin Plan implementation, about the ability to deliver some of the more complex projects within the 2024 timeframe.

It is accepted that the SDLAM is an ambitious program, as is often the case for reforms with the potential for substantial outcomes and benefits.

"Completing all projects by 2024 will be challenging, and there are difficult policy and legislative issues to be resolved," the report concludes.

The MDBA’s Executive Director of Partnerships, Carl Binning, said that more must be done to deliver on the three areas to deliver for critical environmental outcomes.

"The report acknowledged Basin governments' ongoing commitment to deliver all of these projects, but noted there is a substantial amount of work to be done,” Mr Binning said.

"Key priorities include finalising funding and governance arrangements, ensuring project designs are robust and increasing efforts to engage and work with communities to support on-ground implementation."

The full report can be found here

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