Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Murray plan limit not fixed

Water diverted for environment use in the Murray River could vary under the latest Murray Darling Basin plan.

GEOFF ADAMS August 14, 2012 4:02am

Water limits for the Murray Darling could vary.

The 2750 Gl/year sustainable diversion limit proposed by Murray-Darling Basin Authority could be increased or decreased once the new basin plan is introduced.

Victoria argued that the limit could go as low as 2100Gl but no higher than 2750Gl, however the latest plan suggests the range could extend from 2400Gl to 3200Gl.

‘‘The authority considers that the SDL adjustment mechanism should ensure that SDL adjustment initiatives achieve equivalent or improved environmental outcomes when compared with those to be achieved under baseline operating conditions with 2750Gl/year,’’ the authority said in its response to state submissions.

The authority has developed provisions to reduce or increase the recovery of consumptive water where:

equivalent environmental outcomes can be achieved with less water through new initiatives including environmental works and measures, rules changes and improved river operations; and,

improved environmental outcomes can be achieved without reducing social and economic outcomes as a result of new initiatives supported by changes to key constraints to realise the benefits from additional environmental water.

The authority has also increased the amount of groundwater that can be extracted in the revised plan.

The total of groundwater SDLs is increased by 139Gl/year to 3324Gl/year, with Victoria being allowed a 34Gl/year increase.

The authority has increased the sustainable diversion limit for the Goulburn-Murray: Sedimentary Plain groundwater SDL resource from 99.4Gl/year to 203.5Gl/year and increased the SDL for the Goulburn-Murray deep groundwater SDL resource from 5Gl/year to 20 Gl/year.

Contrary to what some commentators are saying, the latest version of Murray-Darling Basin Plan could still be changed. The second version, released last week after feedback from the state water ministers, still has a long passage ahead of it before reaching federal parliament.

The latest plan is back with Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council, which has three weeks from August 6 to present any further comments to Federal Water Minister Tony Burke for consideration.

He may then approve the plan or request further changes, and only when satisfied will present the plan to the parliament, which has the option of disallowing the plan.

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