THE accreditation of Murray-Darling water resource plans (WRP) continues apace with 33 WRP areas in total, 19 for surface water, 19 for groundwater and five that cover both, according to the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) latest quarterly progress report.
Eight WRPs have been accredited and are currently operational, including all Queensland and South Australian WRPs. The Northern Victoria WRP package is with the Minister for an accreditation decision.
The MDBA expects that the WRPs for the Australian Capital Territory are on track to be assessed for accreditation recommendations in early 2020.
As New South Wales did not submit WRPs to the MDBA for assessment by the deadline of 31 December 2019, the Commonwealth Minister has commenced negotiation procedures with the NSW Minister responsible for water to find a resolution.
MDBA acting executive director of water resource planning and accounting Dr Peta Derham said water resource plans represented the on-ground delivery of the Basin Plan.
“They set new and transparent rules on how much water can be taken from the river system and groundwater reserves, and ensure water use limits in each area are not exceeded over time,” Dr Derham said.
“They give everyone confidence that water users are doing the right thing.”
“This month the MDBA recommended to the Minister for Water Resources, Keith Pitt the final three Victorian plans for accreditation. Together with those already in place for the Wimmera–Mallee, these three plans will complete the package for Victoria, which will then join Queensland and South Australia in being fully compliant with the Basin Plan.”
Twenty NSW plans are yet to be delivered for MDBA assessment.
Dr Derham said it was encouraging to see the NSW Government restart stakeholder consultations to ensure their local water resource plans were fit for purpose and reflected the unique character of each catchment.
“We look forward to receiving advice from NSW about their intention to submit water resource plans for our assessment in the coming weeks.
“Agreements have been in place to support the use of the Basin Plan’s sustainable diversion limits since 1 July 2019, but it’s important that the rules are formalised in the water resource plans and fully transparent for everyone to see.
“Plans for northern NSW are expected to include commitments to effectively protect water for downstream communities and the environment during periods of low flow, consistent with the strong action taken by the state government to use embargoes that protected this year’s first flows.”
The MDBA’s process to assess each water resource plan against the requirements of the Basin Plan is published along with the completed plans on the MDBA website at mdba.gov.au/basin-plan-roll-out/water-resource-plans.
The Quarterly Report is available at: https://www.mdba.gov.au/publications/mdba-reports/water-resource-plan-quarterly-reports