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Published: 22 November 2022

The MDBA today outlined the extent of the potential water recovery volume that could be achieved based on the current progress of the Basin Plan's supply and constraints projects.

Marking the 10th anniversary of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, the MDBA released the fourth annual SDLAM Assurance Report on the sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism (SDLAM), a cornerstone of the Plan.

The 2022 SDLAM Assurance Report estimates, at this point in time, that a shortfall of between 190 and 315 gigalitres (GL) in the 605 GL adjustment of the Basin Plan's sustainable diversion limit is likely. This is because key state projects will not be delivered by the legislated deadline. Another assurance report will be completed in mid-2023 to track any change.

MDBA Chief Executive Andrew McConville said the assurance report was the fourth such report the MDBA had released.

"The Basin Plan is a critical part of Australia's water reform. Basin governments put forward 36 projects, which we assessed in 2017 and determined would deliver, as a package, environmental outcomes equivalent to 605 GL of water – essentially keeping 605 GL in the consumptive pool for irrigators that would have otherwise been returned to the river environment," Mr McConville said.

"These SDLAM projects are like a credit to water users. The 605 GL credit has been banked and payment in the form of operational SDLAM projects must be delivered by 30 June 2024.

"As it stands, the 2022 SDLAM Assurance Report estimates that some projects will not be completed and those that will be completed will likely contribute between 290 and 415 of the 605 GL assessed in 2017."

The report found that:

  • 8 of the 9 measures assessed in detail were found to be capable of supporting healthier wetlands and forests, as well as birds and fish, with two of those measures potentially capable of achieving additional outcomes to those considered in 2017
  • at least 6 projects won't be operating by the 30 June 2024 legislated deadline
  • to finish some of the constraints projects that will connect rivers more easily with their floodplains will require another 5 to 10 years beyond 30 June 2024
  • the water saving project at the Menindee Lakes is being significantly rescoped and will not support the volumetric contribution as calculated in 2017
  • not all the Victorian floodplain restoration measures are likely to be operational by 30 June 2024.

"As a result, the MDBA is preparing to undertake a reconciliation in 2024, as we are statutorily required to do under the Basin Plan," Mr McConville said.

"The volumes in the report are point in time estimates only, and in 2024 the MDBA will calculate the new contribution from the working projects, which will result in amendments to the sustainable diversion limits in the southern Basin. The steps to bridge any expanded gap will then be a decision for Basin governments.

"The Basin Plan is designed to secure a sustainable future for the environment, industries and communities – and it's working. Now is the time to rebuild real momentum and deliver the rest of this good plan for the benefit of all Australians."

The MDBA will be hosting a webinar on the 2022 SDLAM Assurance Report findings on Wednesday 23 November at 10:30 am–11:30 am (AEDT). To find out more or to register visit: www.mdba.gov.au/webinars.

Read the SDLAM Assurance Report released 22 November 2022.

Read more about the sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism (SDLAM).

ENDS

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