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Water for the environment

What is water for the environment?

Water allocated purely to the environment and not for extraction is called water for the environment.

Since European settlement, wetlands and floodplains across the Murray-Darling Basin including South Australia have undergone major modification and widespread degradation. 

Declines of iconic and keystone flora and fauna species can be attributed to river regulation and landscape scale changes. 

Natural flood events, now occur infrequently, and their magnitude and duration are greatly reduced, causing deterioration in the condition of wetland and floodplain ecosystems.

The Basin Plan provides water for the environment to protect and improve the health of our wetlands, floodplains and rivers and their ecosystems. 

Water for the environment provides many benefits, including keeping the Murray Mouth open, flushing salt from the system and providing additional water to precious wetlands and floodplains, which need a varied flow regime to thrive.

Provision of adequate water for the environment is a critical element in restoring the Murray-Darling Basin’s long-term health.

Information on the outcomes from water delivered to the environment in the South Australian River Murray can be found in the Annual Reports.

Who holds water for the environment across the Basin? 

Water for the environment is predominantly held in the Murray-Darling Basin by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, as well as Basin States.

  • The Living Murray (TLM) supported by the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA)
  • The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) supported by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO), within the Commonwealth Department of Environment (DoE)

How is Water for the environment held? 

The water is held by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and the South Australian Government. 

There are two primary environmental water holders in the Murray-Darling Basin: 

  • The Living Murray (TLM) supported by the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA)
  • The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) supported by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO), within the Commonwealth Department of Environment (DoE)

Other sources of water for the environment which provide environmental benefits to the River Murray in South Australia include:  

  • South Australian Environmental Water Reserve
  • South Australian River Murray wetland water access entitlements (previously Class 9) (known as the Ministers Wetland Water Licence)
  • Unregulated flows within the River Murray system
  • Private donations from non-government organisations (NGOs) and irrigators

Environmental Water in the South Australian River Murray

The water resource plans define environmental water for the South Australian River Murray.

Planned Environmental Water (PEW) for the River Murray includes:

  • Dilution and loss
  • Unallocated entitlement
  • Unregulated flows to South Australia
  • Additional Dilution Flow
  • Lindsay River Allowance
  • Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges inflows

Held Environmental Water (HEW) for the River Murray includes:

  • Minister’s Class 9 Licence (managed pool connected wetlands)
  • Minister’s Reserve Licence
  • Minister (from The Living Murray held on SA licences)
  • Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder
  • Private Water Holders

In accordance with Section 10.09(2) and (3) of the Basin Plan, South Australia is required to publish a Held Environmental Water Register (HEW) for each accredited water resource plan (WRP) under the Water Act 2007 (Cwlth).

The HEW Register for the River Murray (June 2020) is in the Table 1.

Table 1: South Australian River Murray WRP Held Environmental Water Register
 (June 2020)

Sustainable Diversion Limit Resource Unit Name

Water Source

Licence Number

Owner

Number of shares on Entitlement (kilolitre)**

SS11

River Murray Prescribed Watercourse

197352

Minister’s* Class 9 Licence (managed pool connected wetlands)

37,573,915

SS11

River Murray Prescribed Watercourse

213146

Minister’s* Reserve Licence

6,561,499

SS11

River Murray Prescribed Watercourse

160029

Minister* (TLM)

45,025,561

SS11

River Murray Prescribed Watercourse

153066

Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder

162,140,564

SS11

River Murray Prescribed Watercourse

***

Private Water Holders

1,380,000

Total HEW

252,681,539

*Minister for Environment and Water.
** Entitlement shares on the licences are current as of 29 June 2020.
*** Entitlement Licence not provided for Private Water Holders.

More information on the current shares and classes of water held on each entitlement is available on the WaterConnect website.

Environmental Water in the South Australian Murray Region and Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges

There is no held environmental water in the South Australian Murray Region or Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges water resource plan areas as of June 2020.

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