Agency/authorKey points
Adrian Kidd
Water Advisory Committee, Mildura Branch, Liberal Party of Australia
  • Suspect the SDLs may not be achievable and will need revising because inflows are reducing and they may soon be exceeded by outflows
  • Action to increase flows urgently required.
  • 450GL and 3,200GL will not be achieved without a paradigm shift in the attitudes of governments, irrigators towards the value to be obtained from expenditure on water improvements, ie. spending millions to pipe and pressure channels.
  • Shepparton cannot give up any more water without severe economic and social dislocation. Note Sunraysia recently spent $100million and saved 7GL.
  • Snowy mark 2 – Federal Government should provide details of the water to be stored and the effect of such storage i=on flows in the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers.
  • The main water supply problem in Mildura to be the effects of a shortage of water in dry times. In the last dry in 2007/8/9 25% of the Mildura irrigation area was dried off – not producing heavily so the loss of production not serious, but with the next dry high production land will be under threat.
  • New projects should favour permanent plantings over annual crops and pastures, actions should be taken immediately to warn annual crop producers that their water supplies will be cut first in the forthcoming dry period.
Alan Herath, SA
  • Deals with a range of ‘myths’ associated with the Basin Plan
  • Myth 1: The Basin cannot be ‘drought proofed’ – this is acknowledged by the Plan
  • Myth 2: The Lower Lakes were fresh 95% of the time before the construction of the barrages – asserts that this is incorrect based on historical accounts (Sturt and others)
  • Asserts that keeping the lower lakes full with fresh water during drought periods is impossible and contrary to the natural, pre-settlement conditions of the region – maintaining permanently fresh Lower Lakes may even be contrary to environmental interests of the Coorong and Murray Mouth during drought periods
Alastair Wood
(+ submission 39)
ex fisherman
  • Seen major changes in the Murray Mouth, surrounding estuary and Coorong as a fisherman.
  • Water Resource plans – science has been abandoned in favour of political expediency. Evidence is the 2012 Barwon-Darling WSP, unlikely to be delivered in full, compliant and consistent.
  • MDB subject to paralysis due to bureaucracy of the no. of governments involved.
  • In unregulated rivers, enforcement and compliance minimal.
  • Amend basin legislation to allow/require critical overbank environmental flows to pass downstream, without restriction.
  • Amend basin legislation to allow for the creation of a single independent body that would manage the Basin as a single entity by concerned scientists. Reserve bank level of independence.
  • New legislation to require cotton farmers to take active steps to maintain and enhance natural environments (soils, trees, etc.) and to have this legislation strongly enforced.
Alistair Watson
Freelance Economist
  • Basin Plan is a mistake and creates a set of problems additional to those it seeks to correct. In summary because planning is an inferior way of dealing with uncertainty compared with an incremental or experimental forward-looking approach. The idea that social, economic and environmental outcomes can be optimised without assigning arbitrary weights is unachievable.
  • The BP might be thought of as a backdoor way of reducing the existing Cap on diversions from the MDB. But the Basin Plan is an expensive and indirect way of going about an objective that should be dealt with on other criteria. Past arrangements were working satisfactorily an only required rejigging and more resources. By exacerbating interstate tensions, the BP puts those achievements at risk.
  • The most damaging economic and fiscal aspect of the BP is the dominant position of public expenditure on off-farm and on-farm irrigation infrastructure. Surprised the PC review has not highlighted.
  • he interests of the few prevail. No Basin state is blameless. The Commonwealth Government does not have the technical expertise of the states whatever its financial power. The situation is not helped by the long-term marginalisation of the central agencies from the water debate.
  • The genesis and development of the Plan has made the politics and administrative arrangements of the MDB more tortuous. Water theft is not the fault of the B, it has reduced public confidence. The BP is often a scapegoat.
  • By the 1980s and 90s irrigation in the MDB was approaching its hydrological, environmental and economic limits because the best sites for dams were developed and water extractions for irrigation were approaching sustainable limits compromising downstream user, including other irrigators. In fact policies were emerging on a project-by-project basis to deal with environmental issues under existing administrative arrangements (Cap 1995, Floodplain wetland management strategy 1998, TLM 2000).
  • Two recurrent themes muddy popular discussion of water and environmental policy for the MDB. First, the pre-occupation with the commodities produced on irrigated farms – what is grown on farms is a decision best left to farmers. Irrigation water has to fit into farming systems not the other way around. Second, ahistorical claims about the estuarine status of the lower Lakes and Murray Mouth with the confident and unproductive suggestion that the barrages be removed and the Lower Lakes flooded.
  • The development of the BP could be interpreted as rewriting the existing water sharing agreement between the states in favour of SA. The existing cap on water extractions form the MDB has been revised upwards by calculating new SDL. Increasing the cap to allow more water for the Lower Lakes and at the Murray Mouth might be justified on other criteria. The lengthy and costly procedures of the BP were an expensive way of approaching the issue.
  • Irrigation development in Australia was not based on rational calculation. It is proving difficult to exercise rational decision making now that irrigation in the MDB has entered an overdue contraction phase.
  • The most contentious aspect of the Basin Plan is its emphasis on public investment in off-farm and on-farm irrigation infrastructure to deliver water savings to increase flows for environmental benefit within the MDB.
  • Water savings in the Connections Project in the Goulburn valley will cost $10,000/ML on completion – around five times the price for water entitlements. This is a high price to pay for the improved service and labour savings enjoyed by irrigators connected to this modernised irrigation network.
  • Subsidised investment discriminates against irrigation industries (and regions) that have already adopted modern methods of irrigation compared with industries where new techniques are being developed. What is the justification for irrigated farmers having their capital requirements subsidised when other farmers, and small business generally pay their own way. The same goes for off-farm irrigation infrastructure. Other farmers meet the costs of industry specific infrastructure essential to the conduct of their businesses – grain handling and meat processing facilities.
  • One irrigators return flows is another irrigators irrigation entitlement or contributes to environmental flows.
Andrew Kelly
West Corurgan Private Irrigation District
  • Concerned about the Coorong and the Murray Mouth
  • West Corurgan disadvantaged by current water buying system which limits our ability to secure permanent water – outbid by corporations paying inflated prices
  • Concerned about long-term viability of agricultural industries and small communities within West Corurgan Private Irrigation District.
Andrew Sneidze, SA
  • Suggestion of a ‘Plan B’ for the Coorong to replace Murray Mouth dredging – opening a series of pipelines between the Coorong and the ocean
Anna Hooper
Acting CEO, Australian Vignerons, SA
  • Basin Plan must seek to provide a level of certainty for irrigators
  • Supports the application of Sustainable Diversion limits (SDLs) on the volumes of water for irrigation allocation in catchments – provided that the application of the SDL is based on rigorous scientific assessment that is open to review by industry and the community
  • Supports the provision of a reasonable transition period to allow industry to adapt to any changes in SDLs – however, no support for any additional removal of water from irrigators taking place prior to a comprehensive assessment and reconciliation of the 36 supply measures and the completion of the Northern Basin Review
  • Any further increases to SDLs should only be made once adequate water for the environment has been made available and once the outcomes of the programs have been quantified and proven
  • Economic and social factors should be considered when determining how and over what time period the Basin Plan sets out to meet the ESLT
Anne Reeves
Inland Rivers Network, NSW
  • Process to determine ESLT: Concerns over discrepancies in the initial Guide and the Final basin plan over planned environmental water and final ESLT determination. Do not believe that the 2750 GL reduction will be sufficient to achieve the outcomes of the Plan
  • 36 Supply Measure Projects: Summarises a finding of the Wentworth group that only 1 of the 36 recommended SDL adjustment projects met all the requirements laid out in the Basin Plan. Recommend the disallowance of the proposed SDL adjustment amendment to the Basin Plan
  • Recovery of 450 GL for Enhanced Environmental Outcomes: There is currently no guarantee the 450 GL will be returned to river flows for the purpose of meeting Basin Plan targets. Environmental water gains need to be publicly audited and reported. Purchase of licences is the most cost efficient means of achieving the 450 GL recovery.
  • Water Recovery to Date: The likely outcome with the SDL adjustment is that only 2100 GL will be returned to the system, rendering the Basin Plan useless. Recommended that the 1500 GL cap on licence purchases be removed from legislation.
  • Northern Basin Review: Major concerns over the process used to review the Northern Basin SDL (lack of reliable modelling, no scientific justification for the handback of environmental water licences, any gains through purchased environmental water may be seriously compromised by growth in unlicenced floodplain harvesting).
  • Floodplain Harvesting: This water is still freely accessible in NSW with no monitoring or metering, environmental assessment, or licencing. Take of floodplain harvesting is not fully incorporated in annual accounting for water take in the Basin.
  • Indigenous Views: Tokenistic approach to consultation must be reviewed. Lack of cultural flows represents a failure of process.
  • Illegal Take: Criminal proceedings lodged against two separate cases of alleged illegal take. Lack of metering in unregulated river systems make it difficult to monitor water take.
  • Irrigated Crops: Flood irrigation is unsustainable. Subsurface and drip irrigation must be implemented to drought-proof existing industries and return more water to the environment.
  • Darling River and Menindee Lakes: Basin Plain failed to meet any of the flow targets needed to achieve site specific indicators in the Barwon-Darling. Proposal to remove 70 GL will erode environmental outcomes and put threatened systems at risk.
  • Deadline for WRPs: Stop-start process in deliberations has hindered development of WRPs in NSW. The delivery of the Basin Plan is under threat if WRPs are not ready for implementation by 1 July 2019.
  • Environmental and Ecological Health: One of the key purposes of the Basin Plan was to improve environmental and ecological health of the MBD. This has not been demonstrated, particularly in the Coorong.
Antia Brademann
Upper Murrumbidgee Reach, NSW

  • Discuss regional impacts of restrictions on flow on local biodiversity (particularly native fish)
  • References the classification of Burrinjuck Dam, which is currently classified as ‘unregulated’ despite the fact that its flows are impacted by Tantangara Dam – controlled and operated by Snowy Hydro Ltd
  • Ask the Royal Commission to identify the upper Murrumbidgee River, upstream of Burrinjuck Dam, as a system that is indeed impacted by regulation of flow
  • Recommend this be taken into account to aid in better planning and guidance of environmental watering priorities into the future

Associate Professor Cameron Holley, UNSW Sydney

Associate Professor Darren Sinclair, University of Canberra

Dr Tariro Mutongwizo, UNSW Sydney

Amelia Brown, UNSW Sydney

  • Implementation of water laws and regulation does not appear sufficient to meet future water challenges, particularly under forecast climate change
  • Community mistrust in compliance system has intensified following the ABC Four Corners report
  • Enhancing compliance and enforcement requires continued investment
  • Must educate water users as to the importance of complying with extraction limits – also currently minimal knowledge of NSW compliance
  • Water regulation and operation of markets require effective metering – the lack of accurate meters is a significant impediment to the operation of water markets
  • Rebuilding and intensifying system wide monitoring and benchmarking – significant shortfalls in NWI’s monitoring and continuous improvement systems
  • Improving commitment to monitoring and improvement goals requires increasing monitoring budgets and re-embracing an oversight and transport benchmarking role of the MDBA
Associate Professor David Paton AM
School of Biological Sciences, University of Adelaide, SA
  • Comprehensive outline of concerns relating to the continued decline in the health of the Coorong, particularly in the south lagoon
  • Draws attention to ongoing Ramsar obligations and the operation of the EPBC Act (Cth) in protecting this region
  • Outlines the impacts of the Millennium drought on the region and the inadequacy of the 3200 GL recovery in fixing the problems brought on by this
  • Staunchly critical of the SDL Adjustment Mechanism and the South-East Flows Restoration Project to divert flows from the South East into the Coorong via Salt Creek – he attributes high-nutrient flows from Salt Creek with the recent algal blooms that have further degraded the ecology of the south lagoon
Austin Evans MP, NSW
  • Addresses ‘fundamental flaw’ in Basin Plan with regards to restoring the health of the Lower Lakes, Murray Mouth, and Coorong
  • Main concerns are the volume of water flowing down the Murray River; the ability of the system to function as a tidal estuary; and, the amount of water flowing into the Coorong from the Upper South-East
  • Reference to a paper by Peter Gell (included as attachment) that concerns the supposed pre-barrages condition of the Lower Lakes (where they were predominantly estuarine and tidally driven, according to his research)
  • Restoring flows from the southern end of the Coorong just as critical to the health of the system as ensuring flows from the Murray River
Balonne Shire Council
  • If the Lower Balonne is forced to move to the recovery target of 390GL, the Balonne Shire region will not recover. Key issues and concerns
  • Impact on Aboriginal peoples (15.9% of shire) who have strong cultural connections to water.
  • Importance of Balonne GRP to Qld ($1,029 million – non drought)
  • High risks associated with the Plans ability to achieve water planning objectives due to lack of bi-partisan support and absence of localism.
  • Lack of triple bottom line approach in developing the Plan.
  • Ability to recover from the impact of the Plan due to disadvantage and drought.
  • Lack of socio-economic support for affected communities.
  • Impact at 278GL for the Lower Balonne.
  • To date no specific assistance has been provided to our community. MDBA Engagement Officer was not well resourced in terms of time, support for the officer, or financial resources to assist with implementation strategies for the affected communities.
  • Advocate for structural adjustment to support the establishment of businesses and industries to provide meaningful employment for people displaced by the removal of watater and associated productive capacity
  • Support those enterprises suffering as a direct result of Government interference in the water market
  • Provide an exit strategy for those unable to recover from the effect of the Basin Plan. Note the Murray-Darling Regional Economic Diversification Program has been beneficial to irrigators, this program did not provide support for affected communities or the wider business community.
  • Consultation burnout and lack of faith stakeholder input is appropriately considered, ineffectiveness of the Plan under current situation where DERM has no control over either the SDL or the water recovery process - both of which are critical to delivery of WRP, lack of bi-partisan support and the incongruity of the States.
  • Great risk surrounding MDBA’s ability to monitor and enforce compliance with the Basin Plan and WRPs from July 2019.
  • Those affected by the Plan are yet to have information from the MDBA regarding the ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the Plan, no general information to provide confidence to communities and others, that the Plan is being implemented well and achieving its objectives, MDBA has not communicated the process in place to monitor key risks and therefore communities do not have confidence in the Plan.
  • Water trading rules do not advance the water trading objectives. To date they have seen protection for the environment and third parties. It is necessary to develop trading rules to assist with the implementation of trading mechanisms as outlined in the Toolkit measures. CEWH must consider additional water trading products, other than entitlements and full year seasonal adjustments (e.g. event options, store and release options)
  • Lack of information providing the appropriate linkage between the desired outcomes and the flow requirements.The CEWH is passive in the management of environmental water in the Lower Balonne which does not allow for “localism” as a measure for effective water management. A holistic assessment of local environmental needs is required – including consideration to the management of low flows, floodplain flows and stock and domestic needs. Non flow measures (e.g. weed and feral animal control) must be recognised in achieving environmental outcomes.
  • MDBA and State governments must
  • Halt any further buybacks for the Condamine-Balonne
  • Use a triple bottom line approach to water planning
  • Address the issues raised in NBAC
  • Give priority to the toolkit measures
  • Support socio-economic initiatives to revitalise communities in the Condamine Balonne.
Barbara Webster, NSW
  • Response to ‘4 discussion points:
    • The use of average sustainable diversion limits in the catchment streams and rivers of the Barwon Darling River
    • The decision making process for flow protection in times of extended cease to flow periods downstream, before critical ecological thresholds
    • Metering and monitoring in the northern basin
    • Environmental flows leading to the collapse of other environments, i.e. the Darling River and Menindee Lakes, with ramifications for wildlife in transit from climate change
  • Reference made to the Wentworth Group report
  • Main concerns over the reduction in flows down the Darling resulting in simulated drought conditions
Barbara Webster, NSW
  • Response to points raised in Issues Paper 2
  • ESLT – not currently adhered to within the Darling catchment
  • Critical of SDL adjustment mechanism – much more water can be returned to the system via other means
  • Critical of the cotton industry and their alleged misuse of resources and improper interpretation of an environmentally sustainable level of take
Barrie MacMillan, NSW
  • A response to the 13 items listed in the ‘Terms of Reference’ of the Commission
  • Main focus on items 1, 3, 6, 7, and 11
  • Item 1 – Belief in general lack in community confidence as to the efficacy of the proposed WRPs and Basin Plan (in relation to the Northern Basin)
  • Item 3 – Belief in general lack of compliance with the objects of the Water Act in the Northern basin, particularly with regards to environmental objectives
  • Item 6 – concerns over upstream extractions reducing downstream flows, making it extremely unlikely to meet enhanced environmental outcomes
  • Item 7 – Much more focus needs to be given to achieving sustainable rivers
  • Item 11 – Concerns that NSW government will not adequately protect environmental flows from being diverted for irrigation
Barry Croke
  • Describes Victorian allocation process
  • Every 10,000 ha irrigated in the semi-arid zone could require at least another 40Gl to achieve plant growth conditions similar to the temperature zone. More productive to sue water in temperate zones.
  • Present accounting ignores conveyance losses
  • Pumped irrigation is more risky than gravity fed irrigation in terms of energy.
  • 80% of the water remaining in the GMID is being delivered in 20% of the upgraded system. When project started delivery expectations were 2000GL/yr now 1000GL/yr.
  • Climate change to be considered in irrigation and environmental goals.
  • Raises inability to realize return on recent public investment in irrigation infrastructure (Connection project $2 billion) and on-farm efficiency work (several hundred million $) are threatened with redundancy.
Barry Featherston
Murray Darling Association – Region 6, SA
  • Need to avoid a repeat of the impacts of unsustainable water use and the Millennium drought in the Lower Lakes / Coorong region, particularly under predicted climate change
  • Basin Plan represents an imperfect response but also the best chance of ensuring a healthy river (even with low recovery targets)
  • Concerns about lack of progress towards preparation and accreditation of WRPs
  • Critical that end-of-system environmental targets are met – any proposed amendments should only proceed if there is sufficient evidence to suggest that such amendments won’t unduly jeopardise achievement of these targets
  • 2750 GL recovery target will be insufficient to return the Lower Lakes and Coorong to sustainable health levels – decision of Northern Basin Review may reduce that figure even further
  • Impacts of non-compliance – a question for the Commission as to how the system should be metered to ensure that all diversions and associated evaporative losses are properly and equitably accounted for
  • Climate change is not adequately accounted for under the Basin Plan – current SDLs will quickly become unsustainable under dryer conditions
Bernard Griffin
West Wallsend Branch of the ALP (NSW)
  • Congratulate SA government
  • Open public access to all licence holders
  • All physical works used for irrigation to have statutory declarations approval and to be audited by MDBA inspectors All water through real-time metered pumps
  • Environmental water and Ramsar obligations to have priority over irrigation
  • ASX to report on suspicious water trading, water trading to be suspended in times of shortage
Bernard Griffin, NSW
  • Outline of thoughts (as a concerned member of the public) for areas that need to be addressed – licensing, water use approvals, metering, environmental water, water markets, Ramsar sites, mining and gas drilling, land clearing, and general corruption.
Bill Bagley
Angas Partners, SA
  • Raises concerns over the present and future management of the Lower Lakes and Coorong
  • Views the barrages as antiquated and calls for a reconfigured, automated system to better meet the environmental objectives
  • Must maintain the SDLs for the purposes of ensuring that sufficient environmental water is made available for the Lower Lakes and Coorong
  • Greater infrastructure investment and lock management required for lower Murray – must take into account impacts of climate change and environmental (salinity) issues
Bill McClumpha
Irrigator, Victoria
  • Concerns over enhanced environmental outcomes for SA not being met, as well as whether the 3200 GL plan represents an effective plan for meeting environmental outcomes
  • Concerns that Victoria will not comply with the Basin Plan and diminish chances of positive environmental outcomes for SA
  • Critique of the ‘mass confusion’ over the water allocation requirements and how they relate to relevant stakeholders, brought on by conflicting political interests between States (among other factors)
Brenton Rittberger, VIC
  • Concerned about the health of the Murray
  • Advocates for community benefits of health rivers
  • Advocates for greater Indigenous consultation
Brian Bycroft
Independent Water Quality Specialist, NSW
  • Detailed critique of SDLs and water quality objectives
  • No support for the reduction in water recovery from the Northern Basin
  • Volumes put forward do not meet the legal requirements of a long-term sustainable diversion limit under the Water Act
  • The means of determination are ill-defined and stated benefits are not clearly demonstrated
Brian Chatterton
  • Theft of water being taken by two different groups – individuals and upstream increase in consumption within diversion limits due to irrigation efficiency.
Broken Hill City Council
  • Menindee Lakes scheme of vital importance to our economic , social and cultural fabric as a city and region.
  • The value of the Lakes for recreation and tourism huge.
  • Dismay at theft of water, supports the establishment of a Royal commission or high level judicial inquiry into water theft, reinstate compliance unit and immediate moratorium on the construction of the Wentworth to Broken Hill water pipeline and release of business plan.
  • Supports Murray-Darling Association’s call for Local Government to be given a formal role in decisions on the Basin Plan, the NSW natural resources Access Regulator, the introduction of no-metering, no pumping rule.
Carina Dick
  • Disgrace that water in NSW and Victoria is not piped.
  • Thinks we lose half of all water from the Murray by soakage and evaporation form channels.
  • Lining channels with plastic laughing stock – one hole they are gone.
Carol Jacobson, NSW
  • Concerned about control of water in the Darling
  • Suggests implementing a series of Locks and Weirs to ensure supply
Chris Bagley, SA
  • Addresses the importance of south-eastern inflows into the southern end of the Coorong in order to meet ecological targets
  • Recommends that the term ‘water for South Australia’ be removed from the Plan – focus should instead be on the whole system
  • Concerns about the long-term health of the Darling
  • A range of concerns about the Lower Murray (salinity, acid sulphate soils, etc)
Chris Edwards, NSW
  • Satellite technology to monitor in real time when and how much water is being extracted controlled from a central distribution centre. Penalties to apply of irrigators disregard instructions form the central control room.
Christopher Rawlins, NSW
  • Some concerns about constitutional validity of the Water Act
  • Concerns about floodplain harvesting and illegal take
  • Concerns about the classification of the Murray-Darling as one system
  • Concerns about the proposed new pipeline to Broken Hill and its potential impacts on the health of the Darling
Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Mr Malcolm Thompson, ACT
  • Very comprehensive analysis, split into two parts: compliance and additional information (including water recovery, efficiency measures, return flows, etc.)
  • Basin Plan represents the best pathway for managing the shared water resources of the MDB
  • Compliance – a number of independent reviews into compliance have been carried out at Commonwealth and State levels – importantly, the MDBA’s and independent panel’s MDB Water Compliance Review which recommended the implementation of a ‘no meter, no pump’ policy across the basin and that COAG commit to a Basin Compliance Compact
  • Strategic purchases vs Infrastructure costs – approach to water recovery based on a principle of best value for money – water recovery program focuses on investment in water saving infrastructure but considers strategic water purchases in areas where they present exceptional opportunities to achieve Basin Plan objectives
  • Efficiency measures – focus on Commonwealth On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency (COFFIE) program in SA and plans for full-scale implementation across the Basin
  • Return Flows – Claims that more efficient irrigated agriculture damages the environment by reducing ‘return flows’ to rivers are overstated and inaccurate – return flows can actually damage the environment through elevated nutrient loading, increased sedimentation, and salinization – Commonwealth’s approach is therefore to improve efficiency measures that reduce return flows
  • Monitoring and Evaluation of water infrastructure occurs through a variety of Commonwealth programs
  • Assistance for Indigenous and Regional Communities – Substantial measures in place to support Indigenous communities in the Basin
  • Cultural Flows – The report Cultural Flows – A Guide for First Nations outlines a range of possible options and recommendations
  • Submission also contains a number of attachments outlining the consistency of the Basin Plan with the Water Act and the Five Year Assessment of the Basin Plan
Cotton Australia
  • Around 1437 farms with each farm providing an average 6.6 job opportunities within those communities.
  • Cotton industry achieved a 40% increase in water productivity since 2003. Basin Plan is working and it will take time for results.
  • Successful implementation of the Basin Plan relies on the successful implementation of the Northern Basin review, the 450GL upwater and the SDLAM 605GL down water.
  • In excess of 94% of all flows in the Barwon-Darling are reserved for the Environment. Extractions from the Barwon-Darling account for just 0.05% of all flows across the MDB.
  • Extraction management in the Barwon-Darling is controlled by the fact that no more than 189GL (includes 32.6GL of CEWH water) collectively, can be accredited to irrigator accounts in any one year.
  • Very concerned with the one-sided and inaccurate commentary on the management of the Barwon-Darling and its flow patterns.
  • Cotton Australia supports the Broken Hill pipeline, as a means of under-pinning a secure water supply for Broken Hill, independent of Menindee Lakes as to guarantee 12,000ML of supply for Broken Hill, when levels in Menindee Lakes fall below 240,000ML the NSW government utilises Section 324 of the Water Management Act 2000 (NSW) to embargo upstream NSW entitlement holders access to shares of river flows that would have otherwise been available to them. In 2015 that cost communities upstream o Bourke in excess of $35 million of on-farm productivity, but in reality did nothing to increase flows to Menindee Lakes.
  • Cotton Australia supports a transparent, robust, reliable metering and compliance regime. Zero tolerance for water theft and mismanagement.
  • Reasons WRPs not delivered in time is the lack of expert knowledge and the number of reviews, inquiries and frequency of changes around the Basin Plan and disallowance motion.
  • Now recognise that the implementation of the Basin Plan in full, requires the acquisition of the 450GL in the manner specified in the plan.
  • Queensland Healthy Headwaters and NSW Sustaining the Basin have not been oversubscribed due to the fact that many irrigators do not consider them to represent value for money.
  • Return flows - the water these programs are saving is being saved by reducing losses via evaporation or deep drainage into the soil (greatly reducing the risk of salinity build-up), not water that would have passed back to the river.
  • Basin Plan on pathway through its implementation and Cotton Australia does not believe that there is action over and above the Plan that would enhance environmental outcomes, and fully leverage the benefits form environmental water.
  • Long advocated for a range of complementary measures.
  • NBR amendments & 605 must happen.
  • Compliance enforcement should remain at a state level with the Commonwealth having oversight. Supportive of NSW reform package.
  • Price, availability, connectivity and reliability are the major hurdles to achieving universal metering.


  • Agrees with the approach and methodology used by the MDBA to determine ESLT. Process has been consultative, independent and open.
  • Important part of the ESLT methodology is its malleability.

36 Supply projects

  • Endorses the introduction of supply measures
  • The SDLAM removes the risk from the Authority and the environment and places it with the consumptive pool.

Water recovery to date

  • No reason to believe the full 2,106.4GL will not be achieved but believes that it would be valuable for the Royal Commission to determine whether any contracted transfers are at risk.


  • Integral part of the Basin Plan. Commissioned with bi-partisan support due to realisation deficiency of information.
  • Cotton Australia argued that water recovery should have stopped at 278GL. Money saved should have been invested in complementary measures, which would have leveraged greater environmental gains.

Indigenous views

  • Water used for economic purposes should be clearly identified as such.
  • Any water acquired for Indigenous economic outcomes, should be acquired through the market.

Illegal take

  • Zero tolerance to water theft
  • Allegations should be placed in the context of the 40,000 water licence holders in the Basin and the 13 complaints on the MDBA complaints register to November 2017.

Water Resource Plans

  • WRPs should not be at the expense of the rights of entitlement holders. Additionally, if there are any changes that impact on the rights and reliability of irrigation entitlements they need to be fully consulted on, with any impacts mitigated and/or compensated for.
  • CA is aware of the Commonwealth step in powers under the Act but respectfully submits that the MDBA is completely under-equipped to effectively exercise those powers.

Environmental and Ecological Health

  • Defer to the MDBA’s 2017 Evaluation Report & various reports from the CEWH.
  • Full benefits to the environment will not be recognised for many years.
  • Full environmental gains will only be achieved through a holistic approach which includes complementary measures.
  • Recovery of 450GL
  • CA has never been an enthusiastic supporter of the 450GL, submitting that the Commonwealth should first demonstrate responsible management of the 2750GL or environmental water or equivalent first. However CA does recognise that the Supply measures and the Northern Basin Review do form an integral part of delivering the Basin Plan in full, and therefore the 450Gl upwater is part of the Plan.
  • On-farm irrigation efficiency projects may be one way of meeting this requirement, but serious consideration must be given to a wider range of recovery mechanisms.
  • CA concerned that the Basin Plan and (CEWH) singular focus on holding water entitlements as the only way to meet the environmental water requirements.
  • Cotton Australia believes that CEWH, like a modern irrigator, needs to be a nimble trader of water assets.
  • Should explore whether other water products would assist the CEWH in meeting their requirements in the most efficient way possible should be adopted. While also allowing where appropriate, the use of environmental water for extractive use; with the proceeds being invested into environmental outcomes.
  • Efficiency measures – also without doubt is that these programmes offer long-term benefits to the communities that they are offered. This is borne out by the MDBA social and economic assessment work that was carried out as part of the Northern Basin review. The Goondiwindi area, where the majority of water recovery has been achieved through efficiency programs, was the only area that saw employment growth through the implementation of the Basin Plan.
  • Cotton Australia is aware of no efficiency or recovery project where there is any risk of the Commonwealth no receiving its agreed level of entitlement. In fact the risk lays entirely with irrigator, because whether the estimated savings are achieved or not, the irrigators must hand over the agreed level of entitlement.

Structural Adjustment Assistance

  • It is CA’s view that while individual irrigators have been largely free to engage or not, in the trading of entitlements to the Commonwealth, it is the communities that have suffered most form the Basin Plan. All irrigation dependent communities across the Basin, have lost either actual economic activity or potential economic activity from the Commonwealth water acquisition program. The Commonwealth’s support for these communities through the Murray-Darling Basin Regional Economic Diversification program has been completely inadequate by any measure. According to the Productivity Commission’s discussion paper just $73 million (0.73%) of a $10 Billion MDB Plan has been committed to these communities. Unfortunately, a significant proportion of this inadequate funding was directed to projects in communities that while they have been located in the Basin, were not irrigation dependant. While other communities have lost significant jobs and population because of the Basin Plan have received nothing. Cotton Australia strongly recommends that the Commission seek additional and effective diversification funding for these communities.

Environmental Water Planning and Management

  • CA has long been concerned about what appears to be a strong presence of duplication between the MDBA and the CEWH, when it comes to setting environmental watering priorities. CA contends that while the MDBA has had the role of determining how much water should be available to the environment. The CEWH should have responsibility of determining how the Commonwealth owned water is managed. CA also believes that the efficient management of environmental water by the CEWH can only be achieved when management is done in full co-operation with other holders and managers of environmental water. CA believes that the CEWH and other managers of environmental water have a responsibility to clearly communicate to communities prior to, during and after environmental releases. The purposed/expected environmental outcome from a release should be specifically communicated. Progress to achieving the specific outcome/s should be communicated and the actual outcomes should be objectively measured and reported on. Simply setting targets of trying to achieve certain hydrological results is simply not acceptable. Targets must relate to specific environmental outcomes.

Water Trade

  • CA is concerned that there does appear to be at times a tendency to try to ‘over develop’ or ‘over sophisticate’ the market.
  • CA suggests that government jurisdictions still do more to improve the speed of transfers, allowing closer realisation of a ‘real time’ market. For water market information provided by private providers to be truly effective they need access to all trades and this in reality can only be achieved through access to real-time (or near to real time water registers).
Cr Mark Eckel
Mildura Rural City Council, VIC
  • Response to the Terms of Reference
  • The need for the maximised use of environmental water for the protection and restoration of environmental assets needs to be considered in conjunction with the political environment which competitively seeks to maximise consumptive use
  • Needs to be an increased level of public reporting, on the evaluation and outcomes of the use of water, readily available to the community – need for increased transparency and greater public confidence in the system
  • Proposals put forward for use of environmental water or SDL associated projects should not be considered or undertaken without accessible scientific evidence – a rigorous process is required in the development and accountability of projects and the associated environmental impacts and benefits
  • Various concerns as to the management of the Darling River and Menindee Lakes storage
Cr Phillip O’Conner
Mayor, Brewarrina Shire Council, NSW
  • With regards to irrigators and allocation of water – concerns about clear lack of transparency and no system for declaring obvious pecuniary interests – a few large operators are illegally pumping with apparent immunity
  • View of the Council is that the Basin Plan has decreased the water security of the Brewarrina Community – most devastating impacts have been the sale and activation of water licenses, the transfer for licences away from properties, the removal of pump size restrictions on ‘A’ class licenses, and the failure to protect environmental flows
  • Concerns about unregulated river pumping during low flow events
  • Allegations of water theft
  • Recommends better measures for metering, monitoring, and compliance

Dr Peter Mayfield

  • Summary of CSIRO projects within the MDB
  • Particular attention to climate scenarios and reliability of flow
  • Timeline and description of major studies and reports in the lead up to the Basin Plan 2012 – in particular the 2006 South East Australian Climate Initiative for the National Water Commission, the 2009 and 2010 Climate scenarios, groundwater and river modelling to support the Basin Plan for the MDBA, and the 2012 Goyder Institute Ecological Outcomes of proposed Basin Plan, among others
  • Outline of additional projects related to the Basin Plan in which the CSIRO have been involved or consulted
David Arnold
Bindara on the Darling, VIC
  • Staunch and opinionated critique of NSW government’s approach to water management in the Basin
  • Highly critical of irrigation allowances and proposed new Broken Hill pipeline
  • Also addresses flaws in the Basin Plain with regards to allocation of flows from the Darling and failure to account for inherent variability in flow rates
  • Darling River has not experienced any environmental outcomes as a result of the Basin Plan
David Bell
Former Director of Environmental Water Planning, MDBA, NSW
  • Very comprehensive analysis of a broad range of issues
  • Concerned that the current Basin Plan implementation will lead to worse environmental outcome than would have arisen if there were no Basin Plan
  • SDLs as set out under the Basin Plan are not optimal, and recovering only 2750 GL for the environment will not deliver environmental sustainability – instead, a minimum of 4000-4500 GL would be required to restore ecological health
  • Transparent political means would be better for determining the SDLs rather than reliance on science (but the Water Act doesn’t currently allow for this)
  • Poorly implemented efficiency measures make not make more environmentally water available, or may even reduce it
  • Alleged illegal take should be addressed / Commonwealth should not ‘wash its hands’ for responsibility for compliance
  • Appears to be little intention among the Basin States to meet the deadline for accreditation of WRPs
  • Stresses importance of independence of the MDBA
  • Recommends a range of matters to be addressed

David Papps
Former CEWH, NSW

  • Consideration of what is understood as an ‘environmentally sustainable level of take’ and the 2750 GL recovery target
  • Basin Plan should be interpreted as a plan for biodiversity conservation – other interests are subject to this
  • Plan won’t work without the active collaboration of the Basin States
  • The Plan is not enough in itself to restore the health of the Basin’s waterways – more must be done on top of it
  • Response to the Terms of Reference
David Pearce and Elizabeth Russell-Pearce, NSW
  • Response to the Terms of Reference
  • Purport that the Basin Plan has failed in its objectives with regards to the Lower Darling, referring to the decline in the quality of the Menindee Lakes
  • Suggest that the Menindee Lakes have been sacrificed to benefit environmental assets SA – assert that this is not a fair trade
  • Also raise concerns over the upstream over-allocation, misuse, and theft of water from the Darling
  • Lack of enforcement in the upper-Darling and contributories has had significant ramifications downstream – Significant flaws in calculating flood plain recovery and evaporation rates along with the illegal collection of surface water from interception banks has resulted in large quantities of water “not available” for environmental sustainability
  • Governance of the Murray-Darling Basin is inadequate
  • Achieving enhanced environmental outcomes requires the inclusion of a ‘don’t touch’ clause to facilitate water transport to designated areas
David Shetliffe
Chair of the Murray Darling Association – Region 7, SA
  • Discussion over the supply of River Murray water to Adelaide – notes that the quality of water pumped to Adelaide is intrinsically linked to the health of the Lower Lakes
  • Critical of the use of open channels and flood irrigation and the amount of water lost through these systems to evaporation and leakage
  • Critical of the evaporation considerations included South Australian water allocations that are absent in NSW
  • Advocates for transparency in decision making and calls for greater collaboration
Desmond Connellan
Narwie Partners (Lower Murrumbidgee Floodplain grazier)
  • Metering is a minimal requirement and, not of itself, sufficient
  • Independent auditing of water buybacks, subsidies for on-farm water efficiency projects, on-farm water storage, irrigation projects and environmental water fundamental to the integrity of the Basin Plan.
  • Confidence in the integrity of water management in the MDB is a fundamental pre-requisite if the Basin Plan is to achieve its objects and purposes.
  • Transparency is essential for public confidence in the integrity of the management is to be restored.
  • A Commonwealth judicial inquiry is necessary.
  • Basin Plan incapable of achieving the objects and purposes of the Water Act and the Basin Plan because it does not take account of climate change.
  • Much more than the 450Gl is required to restore the rivers systems and wetlands.
  • Water buybacks and compensation paid to irrigators ignores non-irrigation water users who sought to work in harmony with natural river systems. Compensation should be made for the reduction in water resources suffered by operators, such as Narwie Partners.
  • Governments need to develop effective reconstruction packages so farmers and their communities, can make adjustments well in advance of the predicted impacts of climate change.
District Council of Loxton Waikerie
  • Nationally agreed water resource plans must be delivered in full and on time.
  • Northern Basin Disallowance is both outside of the agreement and certainly not in the spirit of the agreements.
  • Illegal take and other forms of non-compliance is a state responsibility until 2019.
  • Place for approved technologies to be used in future – such as live telemetry.
  • A policy of no meter – no water enforced.
  • Both the ’enhanced environmental outcomes’ and the 450GL are adequately protected by the CEWH and his/her responsibilities to the protection of the environment.
  • There is an agreed plan to follow. It is vital that we continue to support the plan in all aspects and we will then be able to better make predictions into the future as the plans develop further.
Don and Yvonne Stewart, NSW
  • Deep concerns about mismanagement of Menindee Lakes
  • Believe there must be a Commonwealth Royal Commission into Murray-Darling Basin Issues
  • Blame water storage issues on over extraction by cotton growers
  • Call for better metering requirements for upstream irrigators
  • Range of concerns relating to ensuring water for the environment
Donald Macleod, NSW
  • Very staunch critique of the Royal Commission Terms of Reference
  • Believes that the Commonwealth should have no role – or at least a reduced role – in the management of the Basin
  • Does not believe that the CEWH has a valid role in play in water resource management
  • Believes that the 450 GL allocation for enhanced environmental outcomes at the Lower Lakes and Coorong is an unnecessary and unproductive waste of water that would just be lost to the sea
  • Does not believe that extra monitoring and metering requirements are necessary
Doug Humphreys OAM
President, Law Society of NSW, NSW
  • Response to Issues Paper 2 – by the Rural Issues Committee of the Law Society of NSW
  • Inquiry into the Provisions of the Water Act 2007
  • Outlines a range of interpretations of section 3 of the Water Act in relation to the operation of the external affairs power and any limitations on the considerations (i.e. whether environmental considerations should come first)
  • Outlines the constitutional basis for the Water Act and the constitutional authority to legislate for matters in relation to the environment and water
  • The approach of the Act to Australia’s international obligations is narrow and selective. Australia is party to other conventions that are relevant to the Basin Plan but which are not listed in the Act
  • The Committee suggests amending the Act to make social and economic factors as important as environmental factors (invoking the Food Aid Convention 1991 as a source of authority)

Dr Anita Foerster
Senior Research Fellow, Melbourne Law School, VIC

Prof. Alex Gardner
University of Western Australia Law School, WA

  • Response to Issues Paper 2 – particularly the legal aspects
  • Determination of long-term SDL – Concur with the interpretation of the Commissioner – environmental concerns should be paramount, in accordance with the reliance of the Water Act upon the external affairs power (giving effect to Ramsar and Biological Diversity Conventions)
  • The plain truth is that the Act prioritises provision of water to the environment for the short-to-medium-term objective of returning to environmentally sustainable levels of extraction, redressing a long-term historical imbalance in favour of economic uses of the Basin water resources
  • Notes that the Act does not specific a detailed process for determining the SDL against the ESLT standard – task is left to MDBA to identify key environmental assets, etc.
  • SDL adjustment mechanism – main argument suggesting the invalidity of the Basin Plan rests with the evidence that the MDBA calculated the ESLT having regard to socio-economic criteria as well as the environmental criteria – the uncertainties introduced by the Adjustment Mechanism may not be ‘good policy’, but the adjustments do not suggest invalidity at this point in time
  • Consideration of potential grounds for Judicial Review relating to whether the Basin Plan itself complies with the Water Act if the Basin-wide long term average SDL does not reflect an ESLT
Dr Anne Jensen
Healthy Rivers Ambassador and River Fellow, SA
  • A second submission related to previous submission
  • Relates to issues raised in Issues Paper 2
Dr Anne Jensen
Healthy Rivers Ambassadors, SA
  • Water recovery measures fall well short of what is required to restore environmental assets to healthy conditions
  • Ability to deliver desired outcomes is being limited by slow progress in relaxing constraints, issues with protecting environmental flows, and limitations on water availability from certain licences or logistical limitations in delivering environmental water to some locations
  • River ecosystems still stressed due to over-extraction since the 1970s and the effects of the Millennium Drought – Extra water above the current recovery target is needed
  • The MDB Plan will only be as good as its implementation. This must include action to: return enough real water to support environmental outcomes; ensure delivery of 450 GL; ensure genuinely equivalent environmental outcomes if 605 GL reduction passed; protect delivery of environmental flows; ensure all-state compliance; control water theft; monitor and report progress clearly and in real time
Dr Kane Aldridge
Goyder Institute for Water Research, SA
  • Summary of scientific reviews of Basin Plan initiatives
  • Environmental outcomes for Coorong, Lower Lakes, and Murray Mouth are optimised under 4000 GL additional water release scenarios, but are less significant under 3000-3500 GL scenarios – also true of environmental outcomes for Riverland-Chowilla floodplain
  • Timing of release just as important as the volume
  • More environmental benefits could be achieved across all South Australian sites if delivery constraints were relaxed to allow for greater flexibility and water release
  • Additional environmental water recovery reduced the severity and frequency of failure to meet Environmental Water Requirements

Dr Martin Mallen-Cooper
Adjunct Research Professor Institute for Land, Water and Society Charles Sturt University, NSW

  • Comprehensive discussion of key ecological and sustainability issues
  • Strong evidence to suggest that the Basin Plan will be unlikely to restore the natural ecology of the Lower Murray – water from the Basin Plan is extremely unlikely to recover lost species in the lower Murray River unless the hydraulics of the river are addressed
  • Loss of lotic (flowing water) habitats not adequately addressed in Plan – focus on floodplains does not address the health of the main channel
  • Range of reproductive and recruitment strategies not well integrated into Basin Plan in terms of environmental flow allocation
  • SDLs must be revised to incorporate hydraulics, spatial scale, and connectivity – also, Basin Plan only focusses on flow, which misses the importance of connectivity and spatial dynamics on ecosystem function
  • ‘Integrity of flow’ must be incorporated as a value in flow management
Dr Paul Humphries
Institute for Land, Water, and Society, Charles Sturt University, NSW
  • The ESLT is a political compromise that does not represent a scientifically defensible way of protecting ecosystem integrity
  • Cannot use existing models to determine the impacts of proposed SDL Adjustments – little scientific evidence to suggest that proposed measures to improve efficiency of environmental water have sustainable benefits for ecosystems
  • Also contains an extract from a recent paper detailing the complexities of environmental flows and observed ecosystem responses
Dr Saideepa Kumar
University of Tasmania, TAS
  • Discussion of issues raised in Issues Paper 2
  • Scientific complexities around the basis of the SDL – particular focus on the unpredictability of MDB rivers and the lack of a strict linear relationship between flow rate and ecosystem responses
Dugald Bucknell
Quambone Pastoral Co. Pty Ltd, NSW
  • A number of concerns relating to the Northern Basin, particularly the Macquarie Marshes
  • Particular concern about unregulated floodplain harvesting in the northern Basin
  • Addresses the Terms of Reference
  • Specific address to the 5 Year Review of the Basin Plan
  • Specific address to the Northern Basin Review
EDOs of Australia
  • Identified serious mismanagement in relation to metering of water, compliance and enforcement has reinforced the EDO’s ongoing concerns that WRPs will not be delivered on time in a form compliant and consistent with the Basin Plan.
  • Aboriginal clients in particular have expressed concern regarding the lack of consultation and consideration of Aboriginal water requirements, which risks undermining cultural flows and activities.
  • Flawed assumptions being used in the hydrological modelling, insufficient corrections or acknowledgment where those assumptions incorrect, i.e. users complying with water laws in the Northern Basin, most of Commonwealth’s environmental water would make it through the Barwon-Darling.
  • Publically available evidence indicates that a minimum of approximately 4,000GL of water must be returned to the environment in order to satisfy the requirement in the Act to reinstate an ESLT.
  • In light of insufficient allocation of environmental water and increasing limitations placed on the implementation of a number of key features of the Act, the objective to protect and restore and provide for the ecological values and ecosystem services of the MDB.
  • Current practices that limit effective Basin Plan implementation.
  • No legal requirement for the Commonwealth to purchase any particular class of licence in any particular catchment.
  • Insufficient action to remove constraints on environmental water in certain key areas.
  • Increased focus on recovering water through on-farm efficiency works – best available evidence suggesting that in practice on-farm irrigation upgrades are likely to increase (rather than reduce) consumptive use primarily due to reduced return flows and increased production.

Technologies – negative effects

  • Evidence suggests that irrigation efficiency proposals are not returning more water to the system
  • NSW proposal to bring floodplain harvesting into the licensing framework – need clear evidence of the current volume of water being diverted, how much being diverted is a result of unlawfully constructed structures, how environmental flows will be protected, relationship between the SDLs – Basin Plan assumed 210GL, the consultation paper indicates that 600.5GL in the would be eligible for entitlements in the Gwydir catchment alone.
  • Support technological innovations to improve water efficiency, no evidence that monitoring and auditing is being undertaken to ensure benefits.
  • Need to improve transparency in decision making and availability of data to the community. For example in Qld deficiencies include:
  • The absence of publically accessible (and free) water allocation register, register of approved works (pumps, storages, levees etc) and absence of universally mandatory metering laws (or appropriate measurement methods for overland flow).
  • The credibility of the national water reform agenda and the future of the MDB depends on nothing less than complete transparency and accountability.
  • Lists specific issues reported to EDOs regarding ineffective compliance and enforcement.
  • Suggest open standing for the community and the regulator to bring enforcement proceedings.
  • Inadequate investment in monitoring, compliance and enforcement.
  • Monitoring, metering and access to relevant information 9such as usage data) is not adequate to achieve the objects and purposes of the Act and Basin Plan.
  • Benefits of water recovery undertaken to date have been undermined by insufficient protection of environmental flows. Event by event management is required at times to generate environmental outcomes and to protect water quality.
  • Water sharing plans generally do not include rules to protect environmental water as it flows through the system.
  • Security level of entitlements purchased by the Commonwealth – significant 5 low reliability water.
  • Return flows – with a legislated cap on the outright purchase of entitlements, the emphasis is now on recovering water through efficiency measures.
  • Growth in on-farm storages in certain catchments, i.e. Barwon-Darling. Barwon-Darling Water sharing Plan does not include provisions restricting growth in storages. This together with the absence of daily extraction limits for individual licences means that licence holders can pump and store large volumes of water.
  • Basin Plan states no net reduction to the level of planned environmental water under WRPs, documents obtained from the MDBA under FOI indicate that this water may be vulnerable to rule changes.
  • Concerned that water allocations do not take into account likely, future climate change.
  • Failure to adequately address climate change is likely to give rise to breaches under one or more of the environmental treaties to which Australia is a signatory.
  • The Basin Plan’s failure to include likely, future climate change is problematic as planned environmental water will bear the overall burden of absorbing the impacts of climate change, and basing the SDLs on outdated data means that investors are unable to properly asses the value of their assets and the medium to long-term risks to their water portfolio, which gives rise to uncertainty. Any future review of SDLs must consider climate change.
Edward Fessey
Bullabelalie Station (former Northern Basin Advisory Committee member), NSW
  • Northern Basin amendment was a political decision not informed by good science – it is a ‘non-transparent mess’
  • Inconsistencies in water measurement undermines the value of licences
  • The modelling of flows in the Northern Basin is based on historical data and fails to reflect actual contemporary flows
  • Number of issues have to be addressed to provide the basis for any new models, including re-surveying of all private storages, auditing, re-evaluation of the model assumptions to account for reduced inflows, and metering compared against actual end of system flows
Edward River Council
  • Implementation of the current plan is not balanced. The Plan should treat social, economic and environment equally. Environmental outcomes are stripping away from the social and economic outcomes.
  • Structural support to mitigate these effects limited and failed to balance the negative impacts of having water removed.
  • Discussion with MDBA have highlighted the full effects of water being removed are not felt until the eighth year. The majority of the water removed in this region was 2012-14, so full impacts will not be felt until 2020-22.


  • No further productive water acquisition through buy-backs, the impacts on our communities far too great.\Greater detail on the benefits, uses, and regulation of environmental water required.
  • Same standard of compliance metering and measurement across the Basin.
  • Improve understanding of the flow on impacts to agriculture and all other sectors.
  • No further water removed from our region. 450Gl not acceptable.
Elizabeth Tregenza
  • Expressed Wentworth Group concerns about projects
Emma Bradbury
Murray-Darling Association
  • Risk to the effective implementation of the Basin Plan is the omission of local government from any formal role in the institutional and governance arrangements of the Basin Plan.
  • Interjurisdictional consistency on measuring, monitoring, reporting and language will greatly assist implementation of the Basin Plan.
  • Legislate change to incorporate into the Act and the Basin Plan an agreed water recovery impacts assessment and response framework and methodology against which the social and economic impacts of the Plan can be measured and assessed, that equitably defines socio-economic neutrality, and that can be linked to a comparable environmental recovery assessment tool.
  • Replicate SARMS at a Basin scale
  • Currently lack of detail supporting the supply measure projects.
  • Modelling subject of significant debate, little evidence that the modelling has been sufficiently adjusted for the impact of improved technologies.
  • Management issues of concern - effective accounting of irrigation efficiency projects on return flows in determining how much water has been recovered for the environment, and the way evaporation losses are accounted for across the Basin.
  • Consistent metering across all jurisdictions to ensure that all diversions and evaporative losses are accounted for.
  • Effective regulation of the Barwon-Darling with a focus on a statewide solution.
  • More outcomes to be defined (i.e. multiple use of environmental flows, mitigation of cold water pollution) and new measures (review of flow classes, changes to licence pumping heights and pump sizes, restrictions in periods of low flow, consideration of salinity in weir pools).
  • Transparency of licence conditions – public register, information on when pumping is and isn’t allowed, greater alignment of nomenclature, enhanced water literacy.
  • Concerned with floodplain diversions, not clear who is responsible for policing take and regulating works on the floodplain – community consultation process. Rainfall collected in floodplain diversions should be included in the licensing framework.
  • Broadly support no meter no pump policy for 95% of take. All large irrigators should be metered completely.
  • Proposes a list of additional objectives (i.e. adequate penalty and prosecution frameworks, review of increase in pump sizes class A licences in Barwon-Darling).
  • Environmental water management enhanced by greater investment and reliance on local knowledge.
  • Future SDL reviews to take into account climate change.
  • State and Federal Government investment needed to undertake
    • detailed modelling of the potential frequency, duration, and extent of barrage failure under varying levels of seal level rise;
    • further research to evaluate the likely social, economic, environmental, and cultural impacts of various adaptation responses to develop a preferred long-term adaptation pathway
    • delivery of a supporting community education and engagement strategy to promote informed local debate about the future barrage upgrades and operation.
Ex state Labor Agriculture Minister
  • Buyback has failed due to irrigation efficiency – return flows
  • Water doesn’t necessarily move to the highest value production due to other factors – vegetables consumption limited despite being highest value crop.
  • Some controls should be placed on the water right similar to the Veg act & Soil Con act on the land rights
    • New water right to show two amounts – new water consumption and gross water allocation. Leads to buyback on the basis of consumption not allocation.
  • Suggests an annual resource charge based on the capital value of the water right, need to be a rolling average to reimburse the government for the management necessary to maintain a viable and sustainable river system.
  • Montana suing Wyoming for reduced flow in the Yellowstone River – source arguments.
Fred Hooper
Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations, NSW
  • Complex discussion of Cultural water rights under the Basin Plan and relevant State laws
  • Argue that the granting of water licences or other legal mechanisms creating proprietary interest in water will not – ordinarily – extinguish Native Title
  • Propose that a Human Rights based approach is needed to protect cultural water rights
  • Propose amending section 21 of the Water Act 2007 (Cth) to reflect better cultural water requirements (with reference to Article 8 of the Convention on Biological Diversity)
  • WRPs must include / account for cultural flows
Gabrielle Coupland
Chair, Southern Riverina Irrigators Association, NSW
  • Similar issues raised as in previous submission but discussion tailored to Issues Paper 2
  • Emphasise the triple bottom line approach to the Water Act and Basin Plan
  • Discussion of the various interpretations of the ESLT – more open to discussion than what the Commissioner suggested
  • Supports the notion that science should inform, but not dictate, policy – believe there is scope within the international agreements to allow consideration of social and economic factors in the determination of the ESLT and therefore the SDL
Gabrielle Coupland
Southern Riverina Irrigators, NSW
  • Hold the view that the Basin Plan is for the benefit for the whole Basin, not just for the benefit for those at the end of the Basin
  • Critical of the operation of the water market with reference to downstream demands
  • Do not want to see industries and communities sacrificed for the sake of achieving one ‘end goal’
  • Support a Plan that achieves a triple bottom line – environmental considerations must also be balanced against social and economic considerations
Garry Hall
Macquarie Marshes Environmental Landholders Association, NSW
  • Believe that the Macquarie River has not been afforded adequate protection and environmental flows in unregulated stretches are at risk of being abused
  • Environmentally significant (Ramsar listed) sites are at risk of being diminished and exploited
  • Lack of data and reporting measures putting river health and sustainability at risk
  • Allocation of floodplain harvesting should be investigated
  • Decision of Northern Basin review that water was over-recovered within the Macquarie River is incorrect – excess water from Macquarie should not be returned to irrigators
Geoff Wise, NSW
  • Extensive personal submission
  • Draws attention to a number of ‘key issues’ –
    • Conflicting objectives and rules between Basin plan and Barwon-Darling Water Sharing Plan
    • Changes to the Objects and Purposes of the Basin Plan
    • Failure of MDBA to assess and address greatest risks
    • Lack of commitment to Basin Plan from State governments
    • Failure of MDBA to understand the limitations of their ‘scientific approaches’ – failures in modelling, incorrect use of long-term data
  • A number of appendices and attachments
Government of the Australian Capital Territory
The Hon Mick Gentleman MLA, ACT
  • Remains committed to working collaboratively with the Basin States to ensure the full implementation of the Plan
  • The ACT’s water planning and management is based upon providing for the needs of the environment as a first priority before allocations are determined for consumptive uses
  • ACT expects WRPs to be submitted in February accredited before the deadline
  • Specific matters for the ACT include: determination of SDL for groundwater; need to develop and support interstate water trading between ACT and NSW; reluctance by the MDBA to investigate the impact of Tantangara Dam on environmental flows in the upper Murrumbidgee; ACT not set a ‘net’ SDL which has an impact on the scope of water planning and water management
  • Healthy Waterways project in development to reduce nutrient and pollutant run-off into Murrumbidgee and other ACT waterways
Grafton and Williams
  • Commission to investigate
    • The effects of water recovery willing sellers and infrastructure subsidies); and
    • The scientific justification of the SDLAM and the NBR.
  • No, the Basin Plan is not likely to achieve the objects, purposes and desired outcomes of the Water Act and the Basin Plan.
  • Believe Basin Plan has been overall net positive.


  • 2,750GL lacks a rigorous scientific basis, has not had transparent peer review and will not deliver the key objects of the Water Act.
  • Not aware of a scientifically credible justification to move from GPBP to the 2,750GL adopted in Basin Plan.
  • BDL established in 2012 greatly exceeds the annual volume of water in the GPBP and that diverted in any year from 2000-2015 and prior to Cap in 1995.
  • Incorporation of interception in the BDL in the Basin Plan means the SDL is similar to the long-term historical watercourse diversions in the Basin – it is the level of watercourse diversions that cause the environmental degradation.
  • Water entitlements are on average not fully utilised, thus the actual net increase in stream flows is substantially less than what is reported by the Australian Government.
  • 2,750GL represents a political compromise to ensure the passage of the Basin Plan rather than a volume that would meet the key goals of the Water Act 2007.
  • While the calculations to obtain the SDLs are baffling, the groundwater SDLs appear to defy scientific logic. SDL represents an increase in 40% at Basin scale over the BDL and more than 100% recommended in the GPBP, CSIRO (2008) provided a case to why groundwater extractions across the Basin should be reduced.
  • Failure to include climate change in the current Basin Plan.
  • 2,750GL based on unproven projections about the management of environmental flows in the Basin.
  • 2,750GL lacks scientific credibility when there is evidence that the projections are not delivering what was promised.
  • By contrast to the 2,750GL, the calculation in the GPBP can be assessed because its calculations are based on end-of-system fows that can be readily evaluated and this work was subject to scientific scrutiny and review by an international panel of experts.
  • NBR recommendation lacks scientific credibility when 49% and 75% of surface water diversions in the NB are not metered.
  • Risky to adopt any reduction due to uncertainty in water accounting – i.e. volume of floodplain harvesting grossly underestimated.

36 Supply Measure Projects

  • Need to have full and transparent water accounting in the Basin before the supply projects included.
  • The onus should be on the Australian Government to scientifically prove that reducing an already inadequate reduction in surface water diversions by 22% will deliver on key objectives to the Water Act.


  • The 450GL was a political compromise to ensure South Australia agreed to the Basin Plan.
  • The 450GL projects should be neutral in delivery of the key objects of the Water Act, in direct contrast to the NBR and SDLAM.
  • More could be achieved with the $1.77billion – buying water versus infrastructure.
  • Australian Taxpayers would be better off if direct purchase from willing sellers employed.

Environmental and Ecological Outcomes

  • Lack of progress in terms of environmental benefits provided by S0E 2016, recent dredging of the Murray Mouth, deteriorating Coorong Lower Lakes, substantial water recovery began a decade ago and delivery on the 2,750GL due in a year.
  • Wentworth Group, no evidence to date to demonstrate Basin-wide improvements. CSIRO (2011) concluded that an increase in environmental flows of 3,000GL would be insufficient to meet SA water requirements or to meet the salt export target. Goyder Institute Report 2012 noted while the draft Basin Plan would bring some benefits to the SA environmental assets of the River Murray, few of the EWRs required to maintain ecological character are met.
  • Refers to Wentworth Group - environment needs 4,400GL and Paton bird report, and Thompson, Kingsford et al.

Water Recovery to Date

  • Direct purchase $2,000 per ML, infrastructure $5,000 per ML.
  • By choosing infrastructure Australian Government has increased budgeted costs to deliver the Basin Plan by several billion dollars.
  • Argues against the view that direct purchases of water entitlements will result in unused or stranded assets – Wheeler and Cheesman.
  • Using the LTAAY for water entitlements held by the CEWH overstates the net environmental benefit, because on average, some 28% of the water allocated to these entitlements remained undiverted and potentially available for environmental flows.
  • Subsidies for infrastructure upgrades may reduce stream flows Qureshi et al.
  • As of April 2018, there are no comprehensive estimates of the effects of return flows from the direct purchase of water entitlements or subsidies for on and off farm irrigation water infrastructure upgrades.
  • No publically released cost-benefit analysis to justify the expenditures for billions for irrigation infrastructure.
  • In absence of data on return flows resorted to their own calculations – estimate net change in the water available to the environment for $3.5 billion on irrigation infrastructure (on and off farm) is between negative 140GL and zero.
  • Combining estimate of the net effect of subsidies for irrigation infrastructure with environmental water recovery over-estimated by 28%, we calculate that the net actual increase in Basin-wide environmental flows vary between 649GL and 789GL per year, not 2108 estimated by the Australian Government.
  • Argues for comprehensive and independent audit to provide full before-and-after water accounting of the effects of water recovery, it is not possible to have a more precise estimate of the net effect on stream flows in the Basin as a result of water recovery.
  • Irrigator sector organisations collaborate to prevent reform that is perceived to be contrary to the interests of irrigators, and to maximise irrigation-sector benefits.

Indigenous people

  • No material increase in water allocation to First Peoples over the decade 2004-14 (NWC 2014 p 114) - real engagement should result in a change in volumes.

Illegal take

  • Focus for the Royal Commission should be the culture within the Australian and State public services- cost benefit analysis on subsidies for irrigation infrastructure, funding as part of the national compliance and metering framework , yet up to 75% of surface extractions in NB unmetered in 2018, levies in NB funded by Australian Government.

Irrigated Crops

  • More pertinent question is, how much water is applied to each crop during periods of high flow and during drought and what is the net diversion of each crop.
  • Australian irrigators no private incentive to manage or care about return flows compared with American irrigators (western) - possible market failure.
Grant Rigney
Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority Inc, SA
  • The rights and interests of the Ngarrindjeri require that water flows into, through and from, our country from up river – This is a right a priori to all others – the MDBA should commence their consideration of allocations without interferences of these rights
  • Australian Government has obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) – In accordance with Articles 8, 19, 25 & 32, Indigenous people must have a central role in the development, implementation and evaluation of policy and legislative or administrative measures that concern water
  • Ngarrindjeri support higher water recovery targets for restoring the freshwater flows required to sustain Ngarrindjeri cultural life in the River, Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth
  • Concerns about lack of consultation with Indigenous groups – particularly in the establishment and operation of the water trade market
  • Ngarrindjeri consider the engagement process they have developed with the SA Government provides well-developed structures and practices to support equitable and effective Ngarrindjeri engagement and participation in the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan
Helen Dalton
Former Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers Candidate, NSW
  • Calls for a number of actions to be taken with regards to water reform, particularly:
    • Call for triple bottom line planning
    • Review of Lower Lakes, Murray Mouth, and Coorong management
    • Scrapping the 450 GL for enhanced environmental outcomes
    • Introduction of metering and compliance in Northern Basin
    • Focus on outcomes, not numbers
    • More attention given to Indigenous views
    • No tolerance policy for illegal take
    • Regional and social benefits of irrigated crops
    • Constitutional basis of the Water Act
Howard Pascoe, VIC
  • Publish 2 reports, one detailed, one similar to Advertiser
  • It is easy to stir up the masses
  • Challenge the Royal Commission to unify the masses
  • Everyone must prepare for the extremes in rainfall and make sacrifices.
Hugo Hopton
CEO Nature Foundation SA, SA
  • Response to Issues Paper 2
  • Concerned that reductions in the volume of water recovery before the Plan has had time to take effect, and before sufficient monitoring and evaluation has been undertaken, can only erode the potential for the environmental recovery of the Basin
  • Current and projected volumes of water recovery under the Basin Plan do not equate to an Environmentally Sustainable Level of Take
  • Murray River floodplains and ecosystems are still demonstrating reduced condition post-millennium drought – much more water than is currently available to the CEWH will be needed to halt the decline in river and floodplain ecosystems
  • Number of recommendations as to beneficial actions given
Ian Benning
Birdlife Mildura, VIC
  • Comment on poorly managed environmental flows
  • Environmental flow events are not inundating the floodplain, reducing their environmental benefits
  • Better managed environmental flow regimes could take advantage of naturally elevated flow events and ‘piggy-back’ off them to ensure more effective environmental impacts
  • Lack of overbank flows onto the floodplain is greatly degrading the floodplain environment
Ian Cole
Barwon-Darling Water, NSW
  • Defence of agricultural water use
  • Makes a point that Australian irrigators are among the most efficient water users in the world, and that irrigated crops make up the vast majority of Australia’s food and fibre
  • Response to the terms of reference
  • Defence of the Northern Basin Review reduced water target of 320 GL (down from 390 GL)
  • Believe that it is still too early to assess environmental outcomes of the Plan
  • Critique of statements made in the ABC Four Corners report – particularly some of the claims of water theft
  • Outline of issues surrounding metering and compliance measures
Jack Bennett, NSW
  • Concerns over Bourke Shire Council’s sewage facilities contaminating local groundwater
James Wilton
Former member of Murray Darling Catchment Committee, and Murray Darling Advisory Committee (among others), VIC
  • Concerns over the significance of international obligations within the Basin Plan and whether they are being met effectively
  • Concerns over the timing and allocation of environmental flows – whether they actually improve biodiversity or benefit wetlands as effectively as they could
  • Calls for greater transparency and for a reduction in monopolisation of water management – potentially disadvantages smaller, downstream water users
  • Calls for guarantees that minimum flow targets between the Northern and Southern Basin will be adhered to
Jan Beer
Upper Goulburn River Catchment Association (UGRCA), VIC
  • Refers to the impossibility of meeting enhanced environmental outcomes for Lower Lakes, Murray Mouth and Coorong
  • Discussion of constraints (factors restricting output) and the legislated Constraints Management Strategy to achieve greater environmental flows
  • The Constraints Management Strategy is not based on good science, and is not feasible nor technically achievable
  • From private landowners’ perspective, acquisition of easements and financial compensation will do nothing to make the adverse impacts of intentional flooding less harmful
  • Proposed “mitigation” strategies to lessen the impact of proposed environmental flows on private landholders are inadequate
Jane Redden
General Manager, Narromine Shire Council, NSW
  • Concerns as to the future of the Narromine township under the Basin Plan – believe that communities are being adversely affected without environmental benefit
  • Also call for more effective compliance and enforcement for irrigators
Jason Modica
Healthy Rivers Healthy Communities, VIC
  • Critical of misuse of water in the Darling, particularly by cotton growers
  • Worried about the loss of biodiversity associated with ‘cease to flow’ events
  • Very critical of efficiency measures – argues that buybacks and flood easements represent better investments
  • Very critical of the low allocation of environmental flows
John Hunt
President, SADA, SA
  • Similar issues raised as in previous submission but discussion tailored to Issues Paper 2
  • Particular discussion on the definition of ‘productive base’ used in the formation of the Basin Plan
  • Argue that ecological needs should not be put above socio-economic needs and that the provisions of the Water Act and Basin Plan should be construed as such
  • Definition of the ESLT should not be as constricted as the Commissioner puts forward in Issues Paper 2
John Hunt
South Australian Dairyfarmers Association, SA
  • Discussion of issues relating to the recovery of 450 GL for enhanced environmental outcomes – suggest that greater input from Adelaide Desalination Plant could be used to ensure that more water is made available for environmental use in the lower Murray
  • Indigenous consultation – note an oversight of the plan being that there is no inclusion for Indigenous ‘economic’ considerations under the Basin Plan
  • Concerns as to the Constitutional validity of the Water Act with reference to the external affairs power (s 51(xxix)) and s 100 (limitation on Commonwealth interference with the States’ reasonable use of water)
  • Concerns as to the environmental health of the Lower Murray and the chances of achieving a 3200 GL environmental allocation
John Pettigrew
Goulburn Valley Environment Group
  • Express Wentworth Group concerns
  • Recovery of 450Gl challenged by vested interests sponsored socio-economic reports
  • Doubts with SDL adjustment in the NBR
  • Constraints stagnated – critical of New Goulburn project as fails to supply out of bank flows
  • Lack of commitment to reducing irrigation footprint - 20% of the GMID channels delivered in 82% of deliveries in 2017.More assistance should have been provided in the Basin Plan to adversely impacted industries and communities
  • The complexity, technical nature and volume of the documentation for WRPs makes it very difficult for volunteers organisations to be involved.
  • PPMs unlikely to be in place 30 June 2019 – little or no progress in NB
  • Human needs should include cultural flows and social wellbeing
  • The MDBA needs a much stronger role in compliance
Julie Peacock
Nature Conservation Society of South Australia, SA
  • Response to Issues Paper 2
  • Supports interpretation of the ESLT based on entirely environmental grounds
  • Concurs that SDLs should not be increased using the adjustment measures that are not yet in place
  • Concerns over the South East Flows Restoration Project and its potential negative effects on the Coorong – ecological character of the Coorong is expected to decline further
  • Concurs that the external affairs power should be the dominant power for the provisions of the Water Act
  • Some suggested future steps, specifically amending the Basin Plan to reflect a truly environmentally sustainable level of take
Juliet Le Feuvre
Environment Victoria, VIC
  • Deeply concerned about the low recovery of environmental water and possible failure to meet the objectives of the Basin Plan
  • Protection of environmental flows should be of the upmost importance
  • ater Act should be amended to include the tests for SDLs put forward by the Wentworth Group
  • Buybacks should be preferred over efficiency measures
  • Constraints represent a major barrier to restoring river health
  • Failure to assess socio-economic benefits of environmental water – focus has been on the negative impacts (for irrigators)
  • Urgent need for judicial inquiry into the potential corruption and mismanagement of Basin Plan
Justine Keech
President of Deniliquin Business Chamber, NSW
  • Concerns over the impact of the Basin Plan on the Deniliquin community – blames Basin Plan and reduction in agricultural water allowances for the reduction in employment and productivity within the Deniliquin community (shop closures, economic downturn, falling population)
  • Call for the Southern Basin to be exempt from any further reductions in water allocation
Kathy Whitta
Healthy Rivers Organiser, Conservation Council SA
  • Delivery of full 3200 GL (including 450 GL for enhanced environmental outcomes) will likely not be met
  • Downstream extraction of environmental flows must be addressed as a matter of urgency
  • Cap on buybacks should be lifted
  • Efficiency measures still need improvement – measures that reduce return flows should be avoided

Katrina Humphries and Lester Rodgers
Moree Plains Shire Council, NSW

  • Recognition of complexity of intergovernmental arrangements – maintain that any Basin Plan (no matter its flaws) is better than no Basin Plan
  • Suggest that Federal and State level arrangements maintain an appropriate “separation of powers” (not in the strict constitutional understanding), particularly with regards to separating the ministries involved in agriculture from those involved in water regulation and management
  • Concerns over management, monitoring and enforcement of water use in NSW (particularly with regards to allegations of water theft) – suggest that effective management and monitoring plan is the only way to reach accurate determinations over water allocation
  • Need for thorough scientific analysis of water efficiency works, as well and monitoring and review of funding allocation
  • Initial assumptions relating to water buybacks fail to consider ‘knock-on’ effects (e.g. for businesses) – competent economic modelling is required to ensure that there is a proper understanding of the impacts of any future reductions in the allocation of water
  • Funding has been “project focussed” and has not been within the context of fully-developed economic development strategies – more effective and efficient use of compensation funds suggested
  • Certainty regarding allocations of high security water is the most critical aspect of security for irrigators and the rational allocation of investment funds – Incentives for efficiency initiatives should be strongly considered
Keith Peasley
  • Councils at the headwaters in NSW (Orange City, Bathurst City) have scant regard for communities downstream.
  • Cotton and rice not sustainable.
  • Successive governments have over-allocated water communities grown and prospered on the false premise of unlimited water.
  • Environmental flows not placed in pole position.
  • Solutions:
    • Cities over 20,000 in the MDB are assisted in becoming genuine users of grey water
    • Cotton and rice grown as dryland crops
    • Arid rangelands remain
    • Reinstate the legislation and personnel that monitor MDB (EPA, MDBA, NPWS)
Ken Jury
Senior Investigative Journalist, Marine and Aquatic Ecology, SA
  • Response to Issues Papers – Particularly ‘process to determine the Environmentally Sustainable Level of Take’
  • Concerns about the damaging effects of overbank flooding and whether it is truly beneficial for the environment – particularly with reference to reductions in rainfall and run-off due to climate change
  • Number of attachments to support claims of improper environmental allocation of water and the damaging consequences of overbank floods (articles written by him and his associates)
Ken Pattison, VIC
  • Response to Issues Paper 2
  • Very critical of an interpretation of the Water Act that places environmental concerns above those of social and economic concerns
  • Critical of how environmental water allocations have damaged rural communities built around irrigation
  • Makes a point that the Water Act must be amended to clearly put social and economic concerns on the same footing as environmental concerns (citing authority of Professor John Briscoe, Havard University)
Kylie Kilroy, QLD
  • Submission recounts the property damages and subsequent economic suffering incurred as a result of flood events between 2010-2012 which she blames on irrigation structures on KiaOra (Eastern Australia Agriculture) that have been incorrectly placed on the floodplain
  • Assert that KiaOra have made millions in profit in selling water while the damages suffered by her family have left them in near poverty
Lindsay Leake, VIC
  • Graphs and tables of changes in water levels across catchments in Northern Victoria
  • Believes that reductions are attributable to climate change
  • Needs to be added in the calculations for the availability of water to meet the needs of the Murray Darling Basin Plan a significantly large margin for error.
Louise Burge
Murray Valley Private Diverters, NSW
  • Believe that substantial improvements to the Basin Plan are required in order for its objectives to be met
  • Critical of the 450 GL recovery for enhanced environmental outcomes and the restrictions this places on Murray Valley irrigators – believe that more can be done in the Northern Basin to secure this extra water
  • Current focus on flow targets is short sighted
  • Belief in triple bottom line approach – believe that community concerns have been overlooked
  • Serious concerns as to whether the MDBA has acted as an ‘independent organisation’
Louise Burge, NSW
(Individual Submission)
  • Draws attention to the ‘serious deficiencies’ of both the Basin Plan and the Water Act
  • Believes that the Water Act and Basin Plan represent political strategies, not environmental strategies – not enough scientific rigour to be an effective environmental strategy
  • Critical of the MDBA’s lack of attention to ‘local knowledge’
  • Critical of the South Australian target flows to improve the health of the lower Murray – believe that are not practical and not based on good evidence
  • Also includes a response to the Royal Commission Terms of Reference
Lower Darling Horticulture Group
  • Water Management in the Northern Basin, should not be undertaken in isolation of the environmental, social, economic and cultural issues downstream.
  • The MDBA should not accredit a WRP for Barwon-Darling that does not address connectivity and provide for the above.
  • Since 2014, NSW has changed policy and has not embargoed extraction of water from low flows by Barwon-Darling irrigators.
  • Since 2012, NSW has allowed greater access to low flows by holders of ‘B and C class licences’.
  • Reduction in full supply levels from 2,480GL to 1,730GL in Menindee Lakes to minimise damage to cultural sites, represents a reduction in water storage of approximately 30%.
  • Menindee Lakes Water Savings project (MLWSP) estimated to contribute 106GL of offsets, reduce the NSW drought reserve from 480GL to 80GL, providing for stock and domestic only. MLWSP only proceed when detrimental impacts have been offset or negated (suitable adjustment package).

MDBRC to recommend:

  • Environmental entitlements recovered in the northern basin will only meet local environmental needs and those of the Barwon-Darling River through to the Menindee Lakes
  • Small, environmentally significant flows across the northern basin, particularly in dry times, should be protected from extraction for annual crops until the environmental needs of the river downstream, and the needs of higher value permanent plantings on the Lower Darling River have been met,
  • The volume of environmental flow releases from the Menindee Lakes should not exceed the volume of water recovered for the environment in the Lower Darling River,
  • No environmental releases should be made from the Menindee Lakes when the management of the storage scheme is in NSW control and the residual water is providing drought reserve,
  • The Menindee Lakes Water Savings Project, which is an agreed SDL offset project, should only proceed when the detrimental impacts on the reliability of supply to the holders of water access rights on the Lower Darling have been offset or negated.
Margaret Gambling, SA
  • A descriptive recount of experiences at Lake Albert during the Millennium drought years
Marie Wecker
Darling River Action Group, NSW
  • A series of letters to the Barrier Daily Truth (a regional newspaper in NSW) written between 2003 and 2018
Mark Gishen
South Australian Wine Industry Association, SA
  • Concerns about activities that might prevent effective implementation of the Basin Plan – response to points made in issues paper 1
Mark Hegarty
Blue Zone Group, NSW
  • Product details for water monitoring device – H-ADCP (Horizontal Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler)
  • Also scientific testing results and commercial application
Mark Hutton
Broken Hill and Darling River Action Group Inc and the Broken Hill Menindee Lakes We Want Action Facebook Group, NSW
  • Concerns that the Darling (especially the Lower Darling) is dying and cannot support the agricultural and urban demands placed on it – this has broad-ranging consequences for the health of the basin
  • Environmental concerns over decrease in significant flooding events, loss of vegetation, loss of breeding areas for migratory and resident birds, reduction in native fish populations, and loss of stable river banks
  • Concerns about floodplain harvesting ‘making a mockery’ of the Basin Plan
  • In order to improve the health of the Barwon-Darling and Menindee Lakes and meet cultural obligations, small and medium flows must be returned to the system
Mark McKenzie
NSW Irrigators’ Council, NSW
  • Not convinced that achieving positive environmental outcomes should be dependent upon achieving a set diversion of water for environmental flows
  • Some constitutional issues raised – whether the Commonwealth is interfering with the rights of the States to control their water resources, and whether the external affairs power is being misused as a source of power
  • Emphasis on the triple bottom line – environmental allocations should not compromise the economic and social wellbeing of Basin communities – the Water Act should be amended to reflect this
  • No support behind the 450 GL allocation for enhanced environmental outcomes
Mary Ewing
Executive Officer, Lachlan Valley Water, NSW
  • Response to Terms of Reference
  • Concerns over the preparation of the Water Resource Plans and the low likelihood that they will be delivered on time
  • Environmental outcomes – must factor climate and flow variability into the determination of their success
  • Water recovery – LVW takes the view that more than just water volume is required to achieve ecosystem recovery – also a need to enhance triple bottom line outcomes
  • Additional 450 GL – Specifically, question water recovery from the Lachlan River which does not typically contribute to the overall Basin except in large floods
  • Compliance and enforcement – believe that the methods being implemented across NSW will be effective
Maryanne Slattery
The Australia Institute, ACT
  • Extensive submission dealing with a range of matters –
    • Unlawful aspects of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan;
    • Protection of environmental water;
    • Manipulation of water recovery numbers;
    • Manipulation of Cap/ Sustainable Diversion Limits; and
    • Independent and peer reviews
  • Main focus on lack of robust scientific evidence to support the determination of key measures of the Plan
Michael Murray
General Manager, Cotton Australia, NSW
  • Concerns points raised in Issues Paper 2
  • Particular attention to the determination of the ESLT – provides a triple bottom line interpretation
  • Refers to advice from the Australian Government Solicitor re the appropriate consideration of social and economic factors in the Basin Plan
Mr Keith Greenham
  • Supports
    • Continuing floodplain irrigation agriculture with flood/mitigation works as flood irrigation mimics that of a natural flood;
    • Reduction in environmental water ownership;
    • high security/reliability irrigation water to be given higher legal status than environmental water, ie no environmental water until 100% high security and carryover assured;
    • compulsory acquisition to replace market based purchase of environmental water to minimise effects on fracturing floodplain irrigation districts and private diversion area.
Murray Jacobs
  • Problems in the inequitable sharing of water between upstream and downstream water users along Barwon-Darling may stem back to the processes and outcomes of the conversion of area-based irrigation entitlements to volumetric entitlements. In 2012, NSW granted unlimited carryover to offset the impact of having licensed volumes cut by 2/3 from 523GL to 189GL.
  • Provides six questions to ask the NSW water management agencies.
Murray McClure, NSW
  • Strong objections to the SDL adjustment mechanism
  • Strong objections to the proposed new pipeline to Broken Hill
  • Critical of MDBA decision making processes
Nick Harvey
  • Current failure in management of the Murray-Darling Basin to achieve the object of the Water Act ‘ensuring the mouth of the River Murray is open without the need for dredging in at least 95% of years, with flows every year through the Murray Mouth Barrages
  • Over the last 15.75 years dredging has occurred for more than 70% of the time. Wentworth Group estimate that the mouth may require dredging in at least 95% of years.
  • Basin Plan ignores the important role of coastal processes in the management of the Murray Mouth (MM). First, littoral drift of sediment towards the MM is currently counteracting the attempts to move sediment away from the MM through dredging. Second as relative sea-level rises the sandy coast on either side of MM is eroding, in part because of a lack of replenishment sand from offshore sources.
NSW Farmers Association
  • Consideration needs to be given to scenarios where there may be alternatives to achieving environmental outcomes without removing water form industries and communities.
  • No single, overall, comprehensive and thorough assessment of the impact of the plan at the subregional level.
  • Inclusion of environmental outcomes on farm through voluntary reporting.
  • Question that systems are in place to enable measurement of the effectiveness of the collective environmental watering efforts.
  • Negatives need to be reported, i.e. October 2016 flood showed that allowing large volumes of water down the Murray is not a sustainable solution.
  • The projects and the plan are focussed on irrigators, not riparian landholders who equally experience the impacts of water policy.
  • Failure to consult communities on constraints management strategy.
  • Pouring stored water on top of rain events poses untenable risks especially when combined with the less than accurate ability that we have as a nation to predict weather conditions.
  • Strongly opposed to the recovery of additional 450GL – will trigger a range of negative socio-economic impacts on Southern Basin communities – net cost to industry of up to $330 million.
  • Develop a National Energy & Water Productivity Action Plan to address whole-of-system energy production in irrigated agriculture.
  • Reform fatigue and sick of writing submissions to people when they didn’t listen the first time.
Paul Connellan, NSW
  • Very critical of the ‘selfish’ attitudes between Basin States that are hampering the correct implementation of the plan – that is, the States are putting their economic interests ahead the objectives of the Basin Plan
  • Addressing the health of the MDB requires a ‘holistic and cooperative’ approach by all stake holders
  • Refers to alleged water mismanagement in the Murrumbidgee catchment
Paul Newell
  • The MDB will only be restored to function ecologically when the ecosystem is self-resourcing once again and Nature is in charge for human benefit, evolving further.
Paul Porter and Matt Ireson
Wah Wah Alternative Supply Group, NSW
  • Extensive submission relating to concerns within the Wah Wah Stock and Domestic waterway and water use by Murrumbidgee Irrigation
  • Belief in the triple bottom line approach to the Basin Plan
  • Concerns about the water recovery program
Paul Stevens, QLD
  • Response to terms of reference items 7 to 10 – failures in compliance and enforcement
  • Agrees with the argument raised in Issues Paper 2 that environmental concerns should be considered before economic and social concerns
  • Policy and strategy (Northern Basin Review) likely to compromise environmental objectives in favour of social and economic objectives
  • Case study of Hay Roma Dam as an example of failure by various levels of government to ensure compliance and enforcement
Peter Bond
  • Should the Basin Plan not be implemented in full, there is potential for significant harm to the economy, tourism, agriculture, environment and community from future droughts
Peter Cosier
Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, NSW
  • Very comprehensive exploration of the scientific issues with the Basin Plan
    • Critique identifies 4 main areas of concern:
    • Deliberate misuse and neglect of scientific evidence in decision-making to justify a predetermined political outcome;
    • Secretive agreements on Basin Plan implementation between Commonwealth and state government agencies, and allegations of water theft in the northern Basin, which have resulted in a complete erosion of public trust in water reform;
    • Failure of the Commonwealth to intervene, as required by Parts 8 and 10 of the Water Act, when states fail to fulfil their duties; and
    • Failure to manage for climate variability and climate change, eroding the security of water entitlements and placing livelihoods and ecosystems at risk
  • Also puts forward recommendations to ensure proper implementation of the Basin Plan going forward:
    • Rebuild trust through transparency;
    • Ensure continued application of science in decision-making;
    • Enable fair representation of communities and other stakeholders in decision-making;
    • Fulfil the mandate given by Parliament for the Commonwealth to use its compliance and regulatory powers under the Water Act to manage resources in the national interest; and
    • Prepare for a future with less water in a changing climate
Peter Wadewitz
National Chair and SA Branch Chair, Australian Organics Recycling Association, SA
  • Put forward a very complex discussion as to why organic compost should be considered under the banner of efficiency measures
Professor Mike Young
Centre for Global Food and Resources, The University of Adelaide, SA
  • Detailed responses to the Terms of Reference
  • Calls for increase in independence of MDBA
  • Need to supplement current ‘gross’ approach to the water accounting system with a separate ‘net’ approach
  • Need for clearer specification of conveyance and ‘hands off’ flow requirements
  • Development of mechanisms to account for climate change – current failure to account for climate change could be resolved by defining SDLs with reference to a moving average of inflows
  • Calls for a mechanism to link the SDLs with an end of system indicator of river health
Professor Richard Kingsford
Centre for Ecosystem Science, UNSW Sydney, NSW
  • Extensive concerns raised in regards to the implementation of the Basin Plan favouring certain socio-economic interests (irrigators) above environmental interests, undermining the Ramsar Convention and Migratory Shorebird Agreements
  • Ongoing reductions in environmental flows due to poor policy implementation and management
  • Lack of transparency in accounting and auditing measures / inadequate compliance and enforcement
  • Inadequate use of scientific evidence and technology
  • Need for improved focus for planning and management on the whole system
  • No punitive measures available for the Australian Government to hold States to account for inadequately implementing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan

Professor Sarah Wheeler
University of Adelaide

Professor Jeff Connor

Professor Quentin Grafton

Professor Lin Crase

Professor John Quiggin
University of Queensland

  • Environmental water recovery unlikely to be met
  • Current practice does not account for:
    • return flows;
    • increasing utilisation of water entitlements by stakeholders;
    • substitution of groundwater for surface-water diversions; and
    • climate change impacts over time
  • Diversion change metrics significantly over-represent amount of water available for environment due to omission of lost return flows
  • Infrastructure projects may be particularly impacted by supply of real net environmental flows – proper accounting mechanisms are likely to show that these projects are not effective
  • Economics evidence does not support a finding that the Basin Plan can operate without buybacks – strong evidence to suggest that buybacks can have net local economic benefits once adaptations and compensation-reinvestment are accounted for
Rachel Kelly
Policy Manager, Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia, NSW
  • Justify the potential delay in the development of the WRPs with reference to their complex nature requiring substantial community input
  • Put forward that the development of the WRPs allows for the incorporation of the views of Indigenous people
  • Believe that Basin Plan is on track to meet its objectives
  • Support use of supply measures to achieve improved environmental outcomes
  • Maintain that a different definition of ‘neutral’ social or economic outcomes be adopted with referenced to the enhanced environmental outcomes
  • Any new statutory metering and compliance measures should not negatively impact on irrigators who have already taken measures to install metering technologies
  • Put forward the notion of ‘co-management’ of environmental water between irrigators and government authorities
Rachel Strachan
  • Release of environmental water (volumes that exceed the volumes recovered for environmental purposes in the Lower Darling) has reduced the water stored in Menindee Lakes more quickly and therefore reduced water security in the Lower Darling.
Ray Stubbs
Executive Officer, Riverina and Murray Regional Organisation of Councils (RAMROC), NSW
  • Response to Issues Paper 2 – matters raised ‘strongly question the legal validity of determining the Basin Plan’s SDL targets’
  • Additional 450 GL – Concerns over the interpretation of ‘neutral or positive social and economic impacts’
  • Issues raised illustrate the need and urgency for the Commonwealth Government to amend the provisions of the 2007 Water Act, the Water Amendment Act 2008 and the Murray Darling Basin Plan itself, in order to clarify and enshrine a fair and equal triple bottom line
Renmark Paringa Council
  • Basin Plan and nationally agreed water resource plans must be delivered in full and on time.
  • If there is to be a change, then it must be with the full agreement of the states and the federal government.
  • Illegal take and other forms of non compliance is a state responsibility until 2019.
  • A policy of no meter – no water enforced.
  • Both the ’enhanced environmental outcomes’ and the 450GL are adequately protected by the CEWH and his/her responsibilities to the protection of the environment.
  • There is an agreed plan to follow. It is vital that we continue to support the plan in all aspects and we will then be able to better make predictions into the future as the plans develop further.
Richard Sargood
Murray River Action Group
  • Group of people who the MDBA has easements to pass up to 25,000Ml/day between Hume Dam and Yarrawonga.
  • The proposed SDL adjustment process to relax constraints and raise flows to 10,000ML/day not going to happen if this group has any say in the matter.
  • Never been a cost benefit analysis done that compares the supposed end of system benefits against the damage and costs that occur in the upper reaches
  • Both NSW and Victoria have stated they will not support the 450GL of upwater unless it can be delivered without causing third party impacts and we intend to hold the states to that position.
River Lakes & Coorong Action Group
  • Water take has not been prescribed for the Finniss River
  • Concerned that after 5 yrs the River system has not benefited as it should have , remains at the tipping point and aspects of plan may undermine
  • Implementation of the Basin Plan is subject to an unwelcome level of politicisation
  • Further legislation must give certainty for the return of the 450GL to ensure the total amount of 3200Gl before approval of SDL projects
  • Concerns about negative impacts of constraints management often overstated for political reasons.
  • Concern about the SDL projects and modelling – lack of knowledge.
  • In extremely low water flows, the environment must be one of the first to get its allocation.
  • The 1500GL cap on buybacks be lifted in order to achieve the objectives of the Plan.
  • Current institutional and governance arrangements are the single biggest risk to the achievement of the Plan
  • More efficient data collection could utilise the skills of a number of independents and community groups
  • Monitoring programs undertaken during the drought no longer continue
  • It is not possible for the community to assess the South Australian Government against their reporting requirements to the CEWH
Rob Foster
  • A rise of a couple of degrees in average temperature has a significant impact on ‘transmission losses’.
  • Menindee Lakes extremely inefficient water storage – savings in the order of 100GL are possible.
  • Much more water evaporates from the Lower Lakes than Menindee.
  • Given climate Change and growing population will make fresh water scarcer and more valuable, time to advance discussion on replacing the existing barrages with salt barriers at Wellington.
Rob Kerin and Fiona Rasheed
Primary Producers SA, SA
  • Outline importance of the MDB as a water resource for primary producers
  • Support a strong commitment to the implementation of the Basin Plan – however, make a point of the need for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the outcomes being achieved
  • Promote a fair framework of water sharing and management
  • Need for consideration of efficiency measures
  • Support for compliance measures
Robert and Katharine McBride
Pastoralists – Tolarno, Peppora and Wyoming Stations, NSW
  • Concerns over the use of water in the Northern Basin (particularly for irrigation) and the health of the southern Darling and Menindee Lakes
  • Particular reference to the dry river period between 2015-2016 that caused widespread health and water security issues within the Lower Darling region – assert that this period was brought on directly as a result of poor upstream management
  • Concerns and severe doubts about whether WRPs will be ready by 2019
  • Also stress the need for WRPs to focus on connectivity – without connectivity taken into account there can be no chance of meeting the enhanced environmental outcomes of the Basin Plan
  • Advocate for better monitoring and more rigorous enforcement of Basin Plan objectives
Robert Vincin
  • The rivers in the Basin were not flowing rivers prior to European intervention.
  • Basin to become a carbon sink.
Ron Perry, VIC
  • Concerns about the health of the Darling (‘it is dying’)
  • Floodplain harvesting should be stopped for the benefit of the environment
  • Too much attention is given to lobby groups and not enough given to scientific evidence – raises concerns over corruption
  • Concerns that the NSW scheme will not comply with the environmental objectives of the Water Act 2007 (Cth)
  • Questions of flawed science, incompetence, rorting and the damage to the MDB environment by poor practises
Rosa Hillam
  • Supports releasing the SDL adjustments in packages as they are bought to fruition.
Ross Howse
  • Against construction of Menindee Lakes, water trade, irrigation return flows.
Ruby Davis, NSW
  • Concerns about corruption and mismanagement of Darling water
  • Concerns about undemocratic approach taken in the Northern Basin Review – particularly with regards to the reduction in environmental water allocation
  • Concerns about Barwon Darling Water Sharing Plan and its impacts on environmental flows and river health
  • Suggestions for legislative reform – particularly with regards to classification of environmental flows, floodplain harvesting, and efficiency measures
  • Also concerns about the proposed Broken Hill pipeline, the sustainability of the cotton industry, and off river storage dams
Russell James
  • Addresses the current challenges of compliance, completion and accreditation of the WRPs, progress with the SDL adjustment mechanism, and progress with the ‘toolkit measures’ in the northern basin
  • Basin-wide review (2017) found serious problems with compliance and enforcement arrangements across the Basin States – recommended that there be improved measurement and metering, improved culture around compliance, review of penalties for non-compliance, and finalise accreditation of state WRPs by 30 June 2019 – MDBA has agreed to implement all actions within its purview
  • MDBA’s assessment is that the WRPs for Queensland, SA, and the ACT will likely meet the timeline for accreditation, whereas prospects are less certain for Victoria and NSW
  • Cursory overview of SDL adjustment mechanism and Northern Basin Review
Russell Peate
Mid Murray Council
  • A National Independent Regulator is the best model to ensure overall consistency and compliance by all states for Water Resource Plans and MDB implementation.
  • The enhanced environmental outcomes and the 450GL are adequately protected by the CEWH.
Ruth Trigg
Centre for Culture Land and Sea Inc, SA
  • Critique of the draft Amending the Water Allocation Plan for the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse
  • Focus on the suitability of economic model used and data deficiencies
  • Underlying assumptions of the economic model used are wrong and do not account for the limiting factors of the Basin
  • Model does not allow for adequate flow to keep Murray Mouth open 90% of the time, leading to system degradation
  • Model needs to be developed so that healthy flow conditions are non-negotiables
  • Reference to upping the capacity of the Point Stanvac Desalination Plant during low flow periods is misguided
  • Lack of historical data relating to pulse of wet and dry periods
  • Processes of over-extraction omitted
Ryan Breen
  • Series of issues addressed – the independence of the CEWH; the issues around compliance; the protection of environmental water; confidence in measuring water take; the WRPs; and environmental outcomes of the Basin Plan
  • Welcomes the establishment of the NSW Natural Resource Access Regulator for additional compliance and enforcement
  • Important that the CEWO continues to be consulted on the development of compliance frameworks in order to ensure that the Basin environmental water objectives can be achieved with the efficient and effective use of resources
  • Crediting of environmental return flows and ‘piggybacking’ off unregulated flow events crucial to achieve environmental outcomes effectively
  • Successful implementation of the recommendations of the Murray-Darling Basin Water Compliance Review, particularly those relating to the “no meter no pump” policy, are critical
  • Continued engagement with States over WRPs will be critical to ensure that the rules set under the relevant WRPs will provide for the CEWH to discharge its statutory responsibilities
  • Progress towards environmental outcomes is being measured as part of a continuing Long Term Intervention Monitoring Project –Early results indicate that Commonwealth environmental water has provided significant local environmental benefits, as well as a range of Basin-scale environmental outcomes
SA Water
  • MDB Agreement allocations to SA Water. SA Water diversions represent approximately 10% of total diversions in the State. Irrigation 564GL or approximately 39% of the total State diversion.
  • Primary sources of water for SA Water. SA Water balances the use of its source water supplies using a range of demand and supply, and operational models. Use WMLR reservoirs first as most cost effective source of water.
  • Water pumped to the WMLR reservoirs for storage as required. Based on meeting expected six week demand and conducted at times where the electricity market spot price is low.
  • On average SA Water has used 100GL per annum under Metro Adelaide licence.
  • New SDL environment transition to Metropolitan Adelaide Climate Adjusted Licence. New licence arrangements linked to the level of inflow to the WMLR reservoirs.
  • Dry allocation Framework explicitly incorporates SA Waters Adelaide Desalination Plant into decisions.
  • SA Water holds a 50GL entitlement for Country towns. Water piped as far as Ceduna. Extension of the regional pipeline network is often the chosen augmentation option for systems where the groundwater source is under risk of decline due to reducing recharge. For many Sa Water customers the River Murray is their only source of water.
  • SA Water as the Agent to the Constructing Authority.
Sharon Starick
South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board, SA

Letter outlining the role of the SA MDB NRM Board (The Board)

Reiterates the importance of compliance and enforcement measures, as well as good monitoring and evaluation

Outlines the role of community organisations as well as collaborations with the DEW and CEWH
Shelley Scoullar
Speak Up Campaign, NSW
  • Number of concerns and criticisms relating to the Basin Plan and the operation of the Water Act 2007 (Cth):
    • The Water Act was politically motivated and needs to be overhauled for the betterment of the nation’s future
    • The Ramsar Listing of the Coorong and its characteristic description needs to be reviewed for the benefit of the entire nation
    • The Basin Plan is based on flawed assumptions and modelling, therefore the Basin Plan cannot solve the problems of the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth, nor can it fix the problems of the Lower Darling
    • Amendments to the Water Act are needed to ensure that an indisputable triple bottom line is equally applied to environmental, social and economic outcomes
    • Recognition that quality is as important than quantity to maximising environmental outcomes
Simon McArthur
Australian Regional Tourism
  • Regional tourism is a key stakeholder in the health and management of the MDB and critically dependent on the health and attractiveness of its rivers, lakes and wetlands.
  • 2016-17 - 17 million visits to the Basin for $6.5 billion, international visitors grew strongly over the last five years, adding a further $900 million in 2016-17. 32,000 tourism related businesses.
  • Some of our regional tourism members have advised that they believe there has been a net reduction in environmental values. They report deteriorating water quality and reduced sightings of larger birds and mammals in areas where operators have relied on seeing them, and the reduction in watering of some floodplain areas has stressed habitat and reduced wildlife.
  • Tourism plays a vital role in supporting and complementing agriculture and tourism.
  • If the local community is adversely impacted by water allocations for agriculture, then the towns will not only suffer but will be less able to support a visitor economy.
  • There must be a balance between supporting a healthy environment that underpins a strong nature based experience and the need to ensure communities can still thrive and maintain a strong economic base that allows for populations to be steady (preferably grow) in regional locations and retain adequate tourism infrastructure.
  • The Menindee Lakes are a significant tourism and recreation site and caution should be exercised before releasing water form Menindee lakes downstream to counteract ongoing dry conditions, as it will adversely impact on important tourism attractions thus causing distress to already vulnerable communities.
State Government of NSW
(including consultation papers by Ken Matthews)
  • Very extensive coverage of a range of issues, the most extensive being: metering, transparency mechanisms, and management of environmental water
  • Contains a copy of the draft Water Management Amendment Bill 2018 (NSW) that aims to introduce more robust metering requirements and better protection for environmental water across the state
  • Contains a consultation paper outlining better management practises for environmental water (including practises for protecting held environmental water)
  • Contains a consultation paper for better metering and take measurements – including analysis of the current NSW ‘universal’ metering approach (no meter, no pump) and alternative measures
  • Contains consultation paper on transparency measures – discussion of information already accessible by the public and areas that need to be addressed
State Government of Queensland, QLD
  • Support for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and committed to seeing it implemented on time and in full
  • Support for the Northern Basin review to deliver improved environmental and social outcomes for the northern basin
  • Continues to support Commonwealth efforts to achieve water recovery targets in Queensland – but some concerns over community impacts of making excess water available for the environment
  • Treats matters of compliance seriously – intends to make a submission for further Commonwealth assistance in delivering more effective compliance measures
State Government of South Australia
The Hon David Speirs, Minister for Environment and Water, SA
  • A comprehensive analysis of a range of issues presented in Issues Paper 1 and Issues Paper 2
  • Considerable discussion of the Constitutional basis for the Water Act with particular reference to the external affairs power (s 51(xxix)) and the referral power (s 51(xxxvii)) – also discussion of the meaning of the ESLT and SDLs within this framework
  • Issues relating to water recovery and confusion about the Baseline Diversion Limit
  • Issues relating to supply measures – not possible to attribute individual volumes to individual projects
  • Enhanced environmental outcomes – the key risk to achieving the 450 GL is the current budget available for water recovery under the Water for the Environment Special Account – this 450 GL is crucial with the 605 GL adjustment to the SDLs in place
  • WRPs are on track to be accredited and adopted by June 30, 2019
  • Evidence to suggest that the Basin Plan has begun to improve the ecological health of the system, but there remains more to be done – no full assessment can be made until after 2024
State Government of Victoria
The Hon Daniel Andrews MP, Premier of Victoria, VIC
  • Environmental water allocations impose significant burdens on the agricultural sector – reliance on allocation market for irrigators
  • Victoria's preference has consistently been for infrastructure projects that save water through efficiency, rather than programs that reduce water available to farmers and agricultural production
  • As water recovery targets are met, focus needs to shift to delivering the SDL adjustment mechanism (SDLAM) projects to further the Basin Plan outcomes for the environment and our communities
  • Agreed package of 36 offset projects under the SDLAM are the next step in delivering the environmental outcomes targeted by the Basin Plan
  • Compliance and enforcement measures in place – undertaken by water corporations that provide for effective metering
  • Victoria on track to meet Prerequisite Policy Measures by the 2019 deadline – particularly implementing water shepherding
Steve Whan
National Irrigators Council
  • Important to implement the plan and it is not possible to judge its success while only half way through the process.
  • Members suffering from reform fatigue.
  • Basin Plans progress must be measured in outcomes – triple bottom line and environmental outcomes not just flow targets.
  • Negative social and economic impacts of further removal of water from productive use for entire communities and for Australia overall.
  • A compromise plan no longer exists if one side or other is able to remove the parts it does not like, and keep the parts it does.
  • Concerned with progress on WRPs and that they end up being a ‘one size fits all’.
  • Reservations about the ability of the MDB to process a large number of WRPs in a short period of time.
  • Far too early to make a judgement on whether environmental outcomes will be achieved.
  • In broad terms the various reviews so far indicate that the Plan is on track.
  • Concerned the socio-economic definition in the Basin Plan does not meet the Prime Minister’s commitment that this water would only be recovered if it came with improved or at least no negative socio-economic impacts.
  • NIC broadly supports EYs findings that the recovery of up-water must be underpinned by further economic analysis, and detailed industry and community involvement and governments pursuing the measures outlined in the report.
  • 100% of the risk on the supply measures is being borne by irrigators and irrigation communities, because in 2024 there is a reconciliation and if equivalent savings are not delivered, the water has to be recovered.
  • Any suggestion that the original modelling should be revisited would essentially amount to throwing out the Plan and starting again.
  • In the longer term, better modelling and measurement might improve aspects of the running of the system and that it is to be encouraged.
  • As Basin Plan only part way through implementation, it is too early to advocate amendments that were not envisaged in the original Plan.
  • The plethora of reviews (including parliamentary) has presented a somewhat confused assessment of Basin Plan implementation to date.
  • NIC zero tolerance for water theft. Irrigators want and need effective compliance regimes.
  • While it is vital we get compliance right and give the community confidence, in reality, it has very little impact on the Basin Plan overall, and nil on the enhanced environmental outcomes and 450Gl – since they have not been implemented.
  • It is appropriate for compliance activity to be a State matter and it is essential that each State Government appropriately resource the activity.
  • Not possible to meter overland flows. In the Basin overall, 90% of take from watercourses is metered, while 70% of overall take from all surface water is metered. Southern Basin - 98% from watercourses metered, 74% from all watercourses (figure depends on flooding). Northern Basin 30% of overall take measured.
  • Addressing evaporation in Menindee will provide more water for South Australia and the Lower darling than the Northern Basin amendments.
  • Support strong compliance action. Need a transition process for compliance with AS4747 which needs to be revisisted because it is impractical.
  • Agrees environmental water should be protected but recognise that not a big problem because the majority is in regulated systems.
  • The risks of climate variability must be appropriately shared, not carried only by irrigators. NIC concerned if climate change became a vehicle to revisit the whole Basin Plan.
  • For irrigators and Basin communities, 2024 needs to mark successful implementation of the Basin Plan and a period of certainty in water regulation, not the start of a new process.
  • SDLAM projects are an integral part of the Basin Plan as agreed n 2012. If the projects fail to generate enough water there is a provision in the Plan that would allow the gap to be recovered by way of acquisition of additional water entitlement.
  • Advocate for complementary measures to provide ‘triple bottom line’ benefits under the Basin Plan.
  • Argue for increased flexibility in relation to the proceeds of sale of environmental water, including carryover of water allocations.
  • Argue for a shift in flow targets and volume to outcomes. Flow targets are not an adequate measure of the health of a river.
  • Funding of complementary measures by the CEWH via water trading sales and in kind contributions to CEWH activities by delivery partners and the creation of habitat in irrigation infrastructure.
Terry Korn
Australian Floodplain Association
  • Unlikely water resource plans will be delivered and in a form compliant and consistent with the Basin Plan
  • EDO NBR paper 2,750GL not adequate, no water security for the communities downstream of Bourke on the Barwon-Darling. Socio-economic refers to Wentworth review of water review in the MDB 2017.
  • How could WRPs be accredited if no effective metering and reporting system exists?
  • Barwon-Darling Water Sharing plan offers no protection to environmental water and needs to be amended.
  • NSW and Qld do not have the management capacity to implement measures, especially the metering and monitoring of flows
  • Refers to Wentworth group analysis of supply measure projects.
  • Structural Adjustment package should be provided to communities impacted by implementation of the Basin Plan.
  • Should be acknowledged that environmental water is community water which benefits everyone for cultural, social, economic and environmental reasons.
The Murraylands & Riverland LGA
  • The entire Murray-Darling Basin should be managed as a single entity (possibly under a federation model) to deliver an unbiased approach.
The Wilderness Society
  • In current form basin Plan unlikely to achieve the objects and purposes outlined in the Water Act and the Basin Plan.
  • SOE report no overall improvement in the condition of the river systems covered by Basin Plan.
  • Lack of water for cultural flows to sustain the River Red Gums forests in the middle reaches is of significant concern.
  • Particular concern is the effect on the RAMSAR sites, i.e. Lower Lakes and Coorong continues to decline in health due to a lack of environmental flows, placing Australia in breach of its international obligations under Ramsar.
  • UNSW study found 72% decline in water bird numbers over 32 years to 2014 in MDB with river flows and bird numbers closely linked (Kingsford). Similar outcomes in fish and frogs (Wentworth).
  • Without constant dredging of the river mouth, the Murray River would no longer flow to the sea.
  • Abolition of the Sustainable Rivers Audit and the NWC have reduced national oversight of water reforms and the delivery of the Basin Plan.
  • Environmental water has not been well protected by both existing water management rules and stakeholder actions – illegal extraction and lack of coordinating action between regulated and unregulated water dependent ecosystems (particularly across state borders).
  • Non compliance with threatened species recovery plans (Mueller Daisy, Superb Parrot and Murray-Darling Buloke Woodlands).
  • MDBA has not provided a clear statement of its compliance role and not dealt adequately with allegations of compliance.
  • Governments have not adequately measured return flows, nor comprehensively accounted for the reduction in return flows from increased irrigation efficiency.
  • Twice as much money has been spent on subsidies instead of buying back water rights.
  • Insufficient regulation of deforestation and land-clearing in MDB catchments.
  • Climate change was not incorporated into the original assessment of SDLs for the Basin Plan, nor considered in subsequent reviews.


  • Guarantee recovery and delivery of at least 3,200GLof environmental water, including 450GL, through the purchase of environmental flows.
  • Restore ecological flows to the MDB estuary in line with obligations under Ramsar
  • An independent audit of the $13.7 billion allocated, including environmental and social impacts and return on investment of taxpayers money.
  • Federal Government take primary responsibility for regulating and managing the MDB on behalf of jurisdictions, with the Environment Minister being the lead.
  • Amend the Act to require all jurisdictions act in accordance with the Basin Plan.
  • Reinstate a basin-wide river monitoring program to measure and publically report on the overall condition of the 23 river systems of the Basin as well as targeted program reporting on progress towards Basin Plan objectives.
  • Federal Government to control logging, deforestation and land clearing in MDB catchments.
  • Establish a new National Environment Protection Authority with the authority to act as watchdog over environmental matters.
  • Improve accountability with professional water accounting standards and independent auditing accompanied by publically available annual audits of expenditure of public funds and their impact by independent auditor.
Incorporate long-term changes in climate and water availability, and extreme weather into the Basin Plan, including programs to support affected communities adapt.
Thomas Dineen, NSW
  • Discussion about Menindee Lakes and Lower Darling and the role they play in meeting the NSW water recovery targets
  • Puts forward the proposal that Menindee Lakes should be Ramsar listed
  • Recommends that the Menindee Lakes Storage be restored to 2,500,000 ML
  • Advocates for greater compliance for irrigators
Tom Martin
  • Floodplain harvesting needs to be addressed in the Basin Plan.
  • The state of the Darling in the last few years is testament to the vast changes that have occurred courtesy of floodplain harvesting.
  • Support the 450GL if reasonable savings could be negotiated form the huge losses in Menindee Lakes and the Lower Lakes.
  • Losses in channels, dams and irrigation systems are taking losses and should be counted as use. There will be large amounts of environmental water deliverable to the system if equitable rules applied to all.
Tom Rooney
CEO Waterfind Australia, SA
  • Raises a number of points in response to the Issues Papers:
    • Effective policy approaches to water management include both market-based and non-market mechanisms
    • The Australian water markets have proven excellent tools for irrigation communities to adapt to water scarcity and climate change
    • Water markets have also been used to return a large proportion of the 2,106 GL1 of water back to the environment through the targeted buy-back of entitlements
    • The integrity and the efficiency of water markets rely on robust governance, administrative and institutional arrangements – any reform of governance, administrative and institutional arrangements is welcomed
Travis Tobin
Queensland Farmers Federation
  • Alternatives to maximising environmental water flows are needed in the Queensland Murray-Darling.
  • Supports toolkit measures as another option to address environmental outcomes beyond 2019.
  • More time is needed to continue the implementation of current and improved water recovery programs and to allow implementation of catchment plans.
  • Absence of information on supply measure projects does not put the plan at risk because if the modelled outcomes are not achieved by 2024, the MDBA will have to take into account in assessing the achievement of the SDL.
  • Rules-based approach for the provision of ‘planned’ environmental water is appropriate for the Queensland MDB catchments. At this late stage in the Basin planning process questions the need and value of a review of the external affairs power to vest more power in the Commonwealth Government.
Travis Tobin
CEO, Queensland Farmers’ Federation, QLD
  • Puts forward the view that the Water Act is not subject to dealing exclusively with environmental values but recognises that human use of water in the Basin depends upon maintaining environmental values
  • Key purpose of the Act to have extraction of water returned to long term sustainable levels, not just for ecosystems but for the continued productive use of the Basin
Warren Gould
  • Disasters and their impact on prices and water use.
Warwick Ragg
National Farmers’ Federation, ACT

Response to both Issues Papers

Mostly socio-economic concerns, particularly the impacts on the agricultural sector of the 2750 GL SDL

Maintain the view that the Basin Plan should be interpreted and implemented in a consistent manner that does not create further uncertainty for stakeholders

Suggest that Governments adopt a ‘pathway of least impact’ when implementing the Basin Plan

Suggest that the 450 GL of ‘up water’ should be put on hold until constraints are overcome and a method to ensure that neutral or positive socio-economic benefits is developed
Will Mooney
Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations, VIC
  • Deals with areas raised in both Issues Papers
  • Many concerns already comprehensively dealt with by other organisations (ESLT, SDL, SDL adjustment mechanism, Constitutional issues)
  • Also addresses inadequate consideration or protection of First Nations’ rights and interests in water under ss 21 and 22 of the Water Act
    • Disparate treatment of Indigenous interests and rights in relation to land and water – interest in water is overlooked
    • Little scope for First Nations to exercise native title rights in relation to waters
  • Concerns over the decline in health of the Lower Darling
William Brian (Badger) Bates
Director of the Barkandji Native Title Prescribed Body Corporate, NSW
  • Range of cultural concerns relating to the decline in the health of the Darling River
  • Darling River (Barka) represents a site of great cultural significance to the Barkandji people
  • Recent no flow events are unparalleled – no cultural / historical precedent
  • Great concerns about water quality – salinity and blue-green algal blooms
  • Not enough consultation from MDBA and NSW DoI with Barkandji people and no understanding of cultural values
  • Need for cultural flows
William Johnson
Former environmental water manager, NSW
  • Response to the Terms of Reference of the Royal Commission
  • Main concerns relate to the weak regulatory framework governing the MDBA, the structure of the NSW Water Resource Plans, the recommendations of the Northern Basin Review being inconsistent with the Basin Plan, and general concerns relating to the implementation of the Plan
  • Concerns over delays in investigations and lack of adequate powers for compliance and enforcement