Murray-Darling Basin Plan

The adoption of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was a historic milestone for the River Murray and the communities and industries that rely on it. 

The plan is for the integrated management of the basin’s water resources that can return 3200 gigalitres of water to the river – 450 gigalitres more than was originally intended in the draft plan. 

Implementation of the plan will give many benefits, including supporting the delivery of critical human water needs, keeping the Murray Mouth open, flushing salt from the system and providing environmental flows to precious River Murray wetlands and floodplains. 

The challenge now is to implement the plan in a way that ensures all its objectives are realised.

South Australian Implementation Strategy

The South Australian Government has developed a detailed strategy to guide the state’s implementation of the Basin Plan and related programs between 2013 and 2019. 

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan: South Australian Implementation Strategy 2013-2019 outlines the key actions that will be pursued to ensure the Basin Plan is fully integrated into South Australia’s water management arrangements.

Intergovernmental agreement with other basin states

To underpin implementation of the Basin Plan, the state has entered into an intergovernmental agreement with other basin states and the Australian Government which outlines how we will work together.

The agreement also outlines the way the MDBA, basin states and Commonwealth will work together to support the operation of the sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism and implement measures to address constraints - such as low lying bridges and undersized dam outlets - that limit how environmental water can be delivered.

Under the agreement, the Australian Government has committed to provide up to $13 million in funding to South Australia over eight years in recognition of the additional costs associated with the Basin Plan, including funding to develop business cases for environmental projects that could potentially offset some of the water recovery requirements of the Basin Plan.

How the Basin Plan was developed

The MDBA is an independent body that was responsible for developing the plan to ensure the entire Murray-Darling river system is managed sustainably into the future, in accordance with the Water Act 2007.

The plan went through several stages of drafting and community consultation with the final draft of the plan released in August 2012. It proposed that a long term annual average of 2750 gigalitres of water be returned for the health of the river. 

However, further MDBA modelling confirmed South Australia’s position that the proposed 2750 gigalitres was not enough water to secure the long-term health of the river system and that at least an additional 450 gigalitres was needed, along with actions to address constraints on environmental water delivery.

The South Australian Government provided its analysis of the MDBA modelling to the Australian Water Minister, Tony Burke, for consideration in his recommendations to the MDBA and in making his final decision on the plan.

The Australian Government subsequently committed to:

  • returning an additional 450 gigalitres of water to the River Murray, making a total 3200 gigalitres
  • providing more funding for river communities and environmental works.

This commitment was further recognised in the final Basin Plan.