Many positive results, but hard yards ahead
The Murray–Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) progress report on implementation of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan shows the Basin Plan is working, but there is still much more we need to do.
MDBA Chief Executive, Phillip Glyde, says the 2017 Basin Plan Evaluation had examined the first five years of Basin Plan implementation, looking at each element of the Plan to see if it was on track – what social, economic, cultural, and environmental outcomes were being seen, and where more work was needed.
“Already 2,108 GL of water has been recovered or contracted to be recovered for the environment, and with the expected operation of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism, the water recovery task is likely to be mostly complete.”
“Although the Evaluation found that the Basin economy, including the agriculture sector, has continued to grow in the past five years, we know that there are some communities that have felt the impacts of water recovery more than others.”
He says the Basin Plan is just one of a number of factors affecting socio-economic outcomes in Basin communities—and we will be undertaking more detailed work to better understand the impacts of the Basin Plan on communities.
“This Evaluation also found that where we have been able to deliver environmental water, we see positive ecological responses. These are the early signs that we are helping revive the health of the Basin’s rivers and floodplains.”
“Environmental water has so far been used in over 750 planned watering events in the past four years, with environmental water holders working together to get water to priority areas at the right time.”
The report shows clear evidence of positive local-scale environmental outcomes, with positive ecological responses including fish spawning and movement, enhanced bird breeding events and improvements in the health of some areas of native vegetation including River red gum forests.
Mr Glyde says that while the Evaluation findings gives confidence that the Plan is working, three key areas need stronger efforts from the MDBA and Basin governments—the development of Water Resource Plans, stronger compliance regimes, and better ways of measuring water take.
“For our part, the MDBA will be increasing resourcing for assessing Water Resource Plans, and strengthening its compliance functions, including setting up a dedicated Compliance and Enforcement Branch to take a more proactive approach to overseeing compliance across the Basin.”
Copies of the evaluation report are available at www.mdba.gov.au/basin-plan-roll-out/2017-basin-plan-evaluation.