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Adjustment to the sustainable diversion limit

The Basin Plan includes sustainable diversion limits (SDLs) on the amount of water that can be taken for consumptive use which take effect in 2019. Current use is above these SDLs and water is being recovered for the environment through a range of projects.

The environmental water will be used to improve and maintain the health of rivers, lakes, major wetlands and floodplains within the Basin.

The SDLs can be adjusted to reduce the Basin Plan's 2,750 gigalitres (GL) recovery volume through projects, called supply measures, which achieve environmental outcomes with less water.

Supply measures may include environmental works on a floodplain to enable environmental watering with smaller volumes, projects to save water by reducing evaporation or changes to river operations.

SDLs can also be adjusted to recover another 450 GL for environment use through water use efficiency measures with neutral or improve socio-economic impact. These measures, which can be off-farm or on-farm, achieve savings without adverse impacts on production.

The Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council endorsed the package of SDL adjustment projects on 16 June 2017. 

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is now assessing how much water recovery has been reduced by the supply measures. Its preliminary assessment is that the measures will deliver over 600 GL of the Basin Plan’s 2750 GL water recovery target. This would mean there is no need for any new water recovery projects and more water remains in the system for irrigated agriculture and other consumptive users.

The Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council confirmed their commitment to support efficiency measures to recover the remaining 450 GL needed to secure a healthy River Murray. 

Ministers also agreed to progress measures to address constraints on environmental water delivery, making it easier for water to reach greater areas of wetlands and floodplains - with the benefit to landholders of mitigating the effects of natural high flows. 

Agreement on this package of projects is a huge step in our efforts to secure the health of the River Murray and provide long-lasting benefits for primary producers, industries, communities and environments that rely on the river.

This is just the start of the new phase of Basin Plan implementation. Basin states have until 2024 to complete the projects, and will continue to work closely with communities during planning and implementation. 

Supply measures

Supply measures include environmental works, or changes in river operation and management rules, that allow equivalent environmental outcomes to be achieved with less water recovery. These measures will increase the quantity of water available to be extracted, and thereby reduce the social and economic impact of water recovery.

An example of a supply measure is the installation of infrastructure to enable water to enter and inundate a wetland using a smaller quantity of water than would typically be needed in a general 'overbank' flooding event.

Other supply measures include re-configuring lakes or storage systems to reduce evaporation, or decreasing water losses while delivering environmental water by reducing seepage or evaporation.

South Australian supply measures are:

Projects which South Australia is jointly responsible for include:

View a list of supply measures or a map of supply measures.

Projects are expected to be completed over the next seven years, providing a welcome boost to regional economies and the health of the Basin's rivers.

Efficiency measures

Efficiency measures allow for improved environmental outcomes to be achieved through the recovery of an additional 450 GL of water, in ways that have neutral or beneficial social and economic impacts on communities.

Under the Efficiency Measures Programme, $1.57 billion is available for upgrading both on-farm and off-farm irrigation and water use infrastructure to improve their efficiency and return 450 GL of water for the environment.

Efficiency measures include irrigation infrastructure works or upgrades that will result in the same or improved agricultural production with less water. Resulting water savings will be transferred to the Australian Government for environmental use without adverse impact on production in the Basin.

A pilot program is being rolled out in South Australia.

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