Topics > River Murray > Basin Plan

Sustainable limits on water use

Ensuring a balance between the water needs of communities, industries and the environment is key to achieving a healthy, working Basin.

The Basin Plan sets new long-term average sustainable diversion limits (SDLs) that reflect an environmentally sustainable level of water use.

The recovered water will be used to improve and maintain the health of rivers, lakes, major wetlands and floodplains within the Basin and support prosperity of river communities, the long-term viability and productivity of river-dependent industries and the quality of life for all South Australians.

In 2012, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority estimated that the Basin-wide long-term average SDL for surface water is 10,873 gigalitres (billion litres) per year. This represents a reduction of 2,750 gigalitres per year from the baseline diversion level in 2009.

Current total consumptive use is above this level and water recovery for the environment is necessary to achieve the balance of environmental, social and environmental outcomes.

The SDLs will become effective from 1 July 2019 and will be implemented through state water resource plans.

Factors for water recovery

Long-term diversion limit equivalence factors (known colloquially as the cap factors) are used to calculate how much water has been recovered for the environment under the Basin Plan. A consistent approach across the Basin allows a comparison of all types of water entitlements.

These factors for the South Australian River Murray have recently been revised based on improved knowledge and modelling. The new factors will be used to measure South Australia’s share of water recovered.

South Australia has met its share of the water recovery targets and no additional recovery is required, above the volumes already contracted.

Read more about the revised factors here . Further information can also be found here.