ACTEW, with the approval of the ACT Government, can impose urban water restrictions on the areas of Canberra and Queanbeyan.
The ACT Government also has in place Think water, act water, which is a long-term strategy for sustainable water resource management and includes incentive programs and reduction targets which apply to urban areas in the ACT.
In June 1995, an audit of water used in the Murray-Darling Basin revealed that diversions from rivers had increased by 8% in the previous six years and were averaging 10,800 GL/year. Subsequently, the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council introduced a cap on diversions of water from the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin. The cap aimed to limit the volume of water that could be diverted in any year to that based on the 1993–94 levels of development plus allowances (MDBA 2009). The cap’s primary objectives are to increase the health of the Murray-Darling Basin’s river systems while maintaining sustainable consumptive use (Commonwealth Water Act 2007).
The Murray-Darling Basin cap for the ACT allows the ACT and Queanbeyan City Council to take from surface water sources a net of 40,000 ML of water each year. The amount of water available to the ACT under these arrangements increases with population growth at a per-person rate, although the amount allocated for additional population is discounted 25% to reflect water use reduction targets set in the ACT Government’s Think water, act water report.
For NSW, the MDB cap is defined as ‘the volume of water that would have been diverted under 1993/94 levels of development’ (NWC 2007). As a result of this cap, no new water entitlement can be granted in the region without an equivalent reduction in another entitlement.