The River Murray water allocation plan has been updated to meet Basin Plan obligations, while providing the basis for more timely and transparent information for irrigators.
South Australia has now submitted all three of the state plans required for Basin Plan compliance, within required timeframes. And for the first time, all three state plans include an explicit recognition of Aboriginal water interests.
The new River Murray plan has been prepared with extensive input from both irrigation and community groups. It will help to ensure that River Murray water users receive sustainable allocations in dry years, supporting jobs and regional communities.
The new River Murray plan locks in a previous commitment to reduce Adelaide’s reliance on the Murray by 50 gigalitres in dry years – in recognition of Adelaide’s access to other sources.
Compared to the Millennium Drought, this commitment boosts irrigation allocations by 8 percentage points in dry years and applies whenever irrigators are on allocations of less than 100 per cent.
Other than in exceptional circumstances, the 8 percentage point benefit for irrigators is expected to be maintained in full until 30 June 2024.
The commitment will be implemented in a way that has no impact on prices or water security for SA Water customers.
With the River Murray plan now finalised, the State Government will continue engaging with water users on the outlook and water allocation framework − as part of the Government’s election commitment to provide more timely and transparent allocation information for irrigators.
Six regional meetings will be held in Renmark, Berri, Waikerie, Loxton, Murray Bridge and Langhorne Creek in March to provide information about:
- Changes to the water allocation plan;
- The water resource condition and outlook;
- The allocation and carryover announcement process; and
- How water users can use the water market to manage business risk.
Given the continuing dry conditions across the Murray Darling Basin, there is a high risk that South Australia cannot be guaranteed its full River Murray entitlement of 1,850 GL at the start of 2019-20.
The first River Murray allocation announcement for 2019-20 will be made no later than mid-April 2019. This will apply the framework in the new water allocation plan, using advice from the Murray Darling Basin Authority about Basin storage levels.
In line with new rules in the updated River Murray plan, carryover would also be announced at the same time in mid-April – but only if opening allocations for 2019-20 are projected to be 50 per cent or less.
Carryover allows water users to defer the use of any unused allocations to the next water year, up to 20 per cent of entitlement held on licence.