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Managing River Murray water resources during the current dry conditions

Large parts of South Australia and the Murray-Darling Basin have been declared drought affected.

The current dry conditions mean there is a high likelihood that South Australia will not receive its full Entitlement at the beginning of 2019-20.

River Murray water resource availability to South Australia at the start of 2019-20 is dependent on a range of factors, including the volume of water delivered for consumptive demands to all states, transmission and storage losses, water reserves and future inflows from rainfall.

After two consecutive years of low rainfall and inflows across the Murray-Darling Basin, the volume of water in storage is now below 36 percent of capacity and continues to decline. Continued dry conditions and low rainfall are forecast for the remaining 2018-19 water year.

The South Australian Government is working with industry, communities and other government authorities to manage the state's drought-affected areas.

PIRSA is leading South Australia's drought response, working with industry, the Australian and local governments, other agencies and support services to help farm families, farm businesses and rural communities to prepare for and manage the drought conditions. DEW is leading the management of water availability and water resources operations in the River Murray.

The South Australian Government is supporting River Murray irrigators to better prepare for the season ahead by providing early water allocation and private carryover announcements and tools such as flow reports and water availability projections.

How has River Murray water management improved since the Millennium Drought?

South Australia learnt a great deal from the Millennium Drought, putting us in a better position to manage water during dry times.

The water allocation plan for the River Murray has been updated and it includes rules around how water is allocated, private carryover, trading, and the take and use of water.

In line with new rules in the updated River Murray water allocation plan, private carryover will be announced in mid-April, but only if opening allocations for 2019-20 are projected to be 50 percent or less. This approach to private carryover reflects the feedback from key industry representatives during consultation on the draft water allocation plan for the River Murray in mid-2018.

The new River Murray water allocation plan locks in a commitment to reduce Adelaide's reliance on the River Murray by 50 gigalitres in dry years, in recognition of Adelaide's access to other sources of water. Compared to the Millennium Drought, the commitment boosts irrigation allocations by 8 percent in dry years and applies whenever irrigators are on allocations of less than 100 percent.

Other than in exceptional circumstances, the 8 percent benefit for irrigators is expected to be maintained in full until 30 June 2024. The commitment will be implemented in a way that has no impact on prices or water security for SA Water customers.

Adelaide now has access to a wider range of resources including water from the River Murray, Mount Lofty storages, Adelaide Desalination Plant, water recycling, aquifer storage and recovery, and there has been a substantial increase in the number of household rainwater tanks.

South Australia has secured formal access to upstream storages, allowing water to be stored for irrigation (private carryover) and critical human water needs in dry years, where less than full Entitlement flows are received.

Currency Creek, Jervois and Lake Albert pipelines have been constructed to provide an alternative supply of water for irrigators and stock and domestic users during periods of reduced water availability and quality.

The South Australian Government is working with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and the Australian, New South Wales, Queensland, Victorian and Australian Capital Territory governments to ensure the Basin Plan is implemented.

Environmental water from a range of sources, including recovered through the Basin Plan, is now available to support the river and its environmentally important wetlands in South Australia.

The water market has matured significantly. Water trade allows for the redistribution of water among users and is an important mechanism for managing the Murray-Darling Basin's scarce water resources. In addition to local water allocation and entitlement markets, individuals can now source water from a range of water products such as interstate entitlements, forwards, entitlement leases and carryover parking.

 

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