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Water resource planning

In South Australia, we have a great history of looking after our wetlands, creeks, rivers, lakes and groundwater, and we want to get even better. 

To do this, we’re making changes to some of our policies, including water allocation plans, and water affecting activity policies in Natural Resource Management plans. 

The changes are being made to improve how we’re managing our water, including ensuring we’re meeting the standards for water resource management set out in the Basin Plan.

If we manage our water well, together we will be able to enjoy sustainable access to good quality water and healthy rivers, wetlands and groundwater systems for generations to come.



What’s changing?

Changes will support the sustainable management of water, including wetlands, tributaries, farm dams and groundwater.

Changes will be made to: 

  • Regional NRM Plans
  • Water Affecting Activity (WAA) policies
  • Water Allocation Plans 

The changes we are making will take into account new science and information, as well as the changing water requirement needs for each area. The changes will also ensure we are compliant with requirements in the Basin Plan. 

Once the changes have been made, the South Australian Government will create a roadmap of our water planning process, called a Water Resource Plan, and provide to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to review. 

What’s a water resource plan?

Water resource plans will show how we’re sustainably managing the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin resources consistent the Basin Plan requirements and keeping up our end of the deal to deliver the Basin Plan. 

They document how Basin States demonstrate that their water management arrangements meet the standard set out in the Basin Plan, particularly in relation to managing limits on water use. Water resource plans link existing state level water management arrangements to criteria contained in chapter ten of the Basin Plan. 

The water resource plans will cover the Murray Region, the River Murray watercourse and floodplain, and the Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges, which includes the Marne Saunders area. 

More information on water resource plans across the Murray-Darling Basin 

View a map of the water resource plan areas 

A water resource plan addresses a range of water resource management issues. It must: 

  • set out held environmental water and planned environmental water including the rules and arrangements associated with the water
  • provide for the Basin-wide environmental watering strategy
  • set out how much water can be taken annually for consumptive use in a way that meets the long-term sustainable diversion limit (SDL), including the rules around the consumption of this water
  • include a plan to manage water quality standards
  • set out the circumstances when trade within and between groundwater SDL units, and trade from groundwater to surface water SDL units is allowed
  • outline how water will be managed during extreme events
  • show how Aboriginal values and uses have been considered
  • set out how interception activities including run off dams, commercial plantations, mining activities and floodplain harvesting will be managed and monitored. This needs to include any actions that can be taken to remedy any issues
  • outline the risks to the resource and strategies to address them.

What regions do they cover?

Across the whole Murray-Darling Basin, 36 water resource plans are being developed. 

DEWNR is leading the work on the three South Australian plans: 

  • SA River Murray (includes the surface waters of the main channel of the River and the Lower Lakes)
  • Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges (which includes the Marne Saunders Prescribed water resources area)
  • SA Murray region (which covers groundwater and surface water in the remainder of the SA Murray-Darling Basin including the Coorong and an extensive area north of the River Murray)

South Australia’s first water resource plan will be for the South Australian Murray region, and is scheduled to be accredited in late 2017. 

The water resource plan for the Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges is scheduled for accreditation in late 2018, and the water resource plan for the River Murray is required to be accredited by mid-2019. 

South Australia is working in consultation with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and other Basin States during preparation of its water resource plans

Aboriginal engagement

Water resource plans will involve further engagement and consultation with Aboriginal Groups to identify Aboriginal peoples’ objectives and desired outcomes for the management of water resources.

South Australia will have regard to social, spiritual and cultural values, and Aboriginal peoples’ water resource use when developing water resource plans, and seek their involvement in the implementation of the water resource plan. This includes having regard to Aboriginal Nations views on Cultural Flows.

How will water resource plans affect me?

Once the plans are finished, the Government will report to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority  each year on things like water use and water quality – but this won’t change anything for water users. 

Communities can continue to do their bit to help by following their local water allocation plan and water affecting activity policies. 

For more information, read our  water resource planning frequently asked questions.

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