Bureau of Meteorology logo
 
                           

Murray–Darling Basin

                                                                                                   

Administration

                             

This page explains how legislation, plans and provisions are applied for surface, ground and environmental water. It also lists the organisations responsible for water management in this region.

 

Water Management, Legislation, Plans and Provisions

Surface Water

Surface water legislation

The main legislative instruments governing water resource management within the Murray–Darling Basin (MDB) region are:

 

Water Management Plans

Water planning and management in the MDB region is based on State and Territory water management plans. The details of each State’s arrangements are provided below.

Australian Capital Territory

The Water Resources Act 2007 (ACT) does not provide for the making of a statutory water resource management plan in the Australian Capital Territory, but for specific instruments for the management of water. When considered as a whole, these instruments constitute the main elements of a typical plan. These instruments expire at the end of 2014 and include:

New South Wales

Water sharing plans are the water management instruments in New South Wales and are in force for ten years following their approval. Water sharing plans covering the MDB region during the reporting period were:

The following water sharing plans have been developed for the MDB region; however, they were temporarily suspended during the reporting period due to low water availability:

Queensland

Water resource plans and resource operations plans are the water management instruments in Queensland. Resource operations plans detail how to operationally meet the requirements of the water resource plans. Water resource plans covering the MDB region during the reporting period were:

The existing water resource plans expire on 1 September 2014.

New South Wales — Queensland Border Rivers Intergovernmental Agreement 2008

The New South Wales – Queensland Border Rivers Intergovernmental Agreement 2008 provides direction on water sharing and access, interstate trading and managing the streamflows shared by both States, as well as water for the Darling River Basin.

South Australia

Water management in South Australia is governed by water allocation plans and regional natural resources management plans. Within the Murray River region, the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse Water Allocation Plan was in place during the reporting period. Natural Resources Management Act 2004 (SA) specifies that water allocation plans need to be reviewed at least every five years.

Victoria

Victoria’s water entitlement and allocation framework provides the basis for the management of Victoria’s water resources and governs how water be taken and used. The framework considers all water resources (surface water and groundwater) for both consumptive and environmental purposes.

The key water resource management planning documents are:

 

Groundwater

Groundwater Legislation

Groundwater in the MDB region is governed by the same legislation as surface water, as detailed in Surface water legislation.

Groundwater Management Plans

Water planning and management in the MDB region is based on State and Territory water management plans. The details of the specific instruments in place for each State are listed below.

Australian Capital Territory

As with surface water, groundwater is managed in line with the following instruments associated with the Water Resources Act 2007 (ACT) :

New South Wales

The following water sharing plans applied to groundwater within the MDB region during 2009–10:

All plans, unless otherwise indicated, expire on 30 June 2017.

Sections of the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) within with MDB region are also covered by water sharing plans; however, the GAB resource is not included in the MDB region in the National Water Account 2010.

Queensland

Queensland has no current statutory water resource plans for groundwater; however, Queensland does manage groundwater through other management frameworks. These include:
  • declared groundwater areas, requiring the take of water to be licensed (except stock and domestic use)
  • groundwater management areas involving a higher level of management, including:
    • licensed take, specifying a volumetric limit
    • detailed water-sharing rules, including announced allocations to set and control the volume of water taken under licence each year
    • metering, ensuring take is accounted for and managed in accordance with entitlement and resource availability
    • moratoriums, limiting the take of new water
  • moratoriums on other groundwater areas, controlling and limiting the take of new water while management arrangements are being established.

New South Wales — Queensland Border Rivers Intergovernmental Agreement 2008

The New South Wales – Queensland Border Rivers Intergovernmental Agreement 2008 applies principally to surface water in the Border Rivers catchment within the jurisdiction of the respective States, but also provides for broad agreement on the shared groundwater resources of the Dumaresq River Groundwater Area. It is the intention of both States that this agreement will ultimately be amended to explain better the groundwater resources common to the two states, excluding the GAB.

South Australia

Within South Australia, water allocation plans are developed for each prescribed well area. The water allocation plans in place in the MDB region during the reporting period include: The Water Allocation Plan for the Peake, Roby and Sherlock Prescribed Wells Area has been effective from March 2011.

The Natural Resources Management Act 2004 (SA) specifies that water allocation plans need to be reviewed at least every five years. All listed water allocation plans will remain operational after 2012, except for the Angas Bremer, which is due to be incorporated into the Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges water allocation plan.

Victoria

Within the MDB region, the following groundwater management plans were in force during 2009–10:

Groundwater management plans for the Campaspe and Spring Hill areas were revoked during 2010–11.

Border Groundwaters Agreement (Victoria — South Australia)

Along the Victorian – South Australian border, the two States entered into the Border Groundwaters Agreement in 1985, which was updated in 2005. It states that the available groundwater shall be shared equitably between the two States along a 20 km wide designated area extending on both sides of the border.


Environmental Water

Environmental Water Legislation

Environmental water in the MDB region is governed by the same legislation as surface water, as detailed in Surface water legislation.

Environmental Water Provisions

Detailed information about environmental water management within the MDB region can be found in the National Water Commission’s Australian Environmental Water Management Report 2010.

Some key features of environmental water provisions within the MDB region are:

  • Each jurisdiction has legislative goals for managing surface water and groundwater systems.
  • Within each jurisdiction, the water management plans that have been developed address requirements to provide water for the environment – by either setting aside volumes that cannot be extracted from the system or through releasing volumes from a storage in a controlled manner to achieve a set of conditions downstream. The restrictions on extraction also apply to groundwater systems.
  • Not all areas of the MDB region have water management plans developed.
  • In addition to water management plans, other programs have been introduced by governments to increase the volume of water that is provided for the environment. For example, the Australian Government has introduced a $3.1 billion program called Restoring the Balance in the Murray–Darling Basin . The water rights acquired by the Commonwealth under this program become part of the Commonwealth environmental water holdings. These holdings are managed by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH).
  • Jurisdictions have also delivered significant water recovery programs over the last five to six years, such as New South Wales RiverBank, Rivers Environmental Restoration Program and Wetland Recovery Program.
  • Jurisdictions also hold entitlements for the purpose of watering the environment as a result of the afore-mentioned and other programs (e.g. environmental entitlements held by the Minister for Environment in New South Wales and the Victorian Environmental Water Holder in Victoria).

The Living Murray program

The Living Murray program was established in 2002 to improve the health of the River Murray system. It is a partnership among the Australian, New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian and Australian Capital Territory Governments.

Initially, The Living Murray was focusing on improving the environment at the following six icon sites along the river:

The sites were chosen for their high ecological value – most are listed as internationally significant wetlands under the Ramsar convention – as well as their cultural significance to Indigenous people and the broader community.

 

Organisations Responsible for Water Management


Table A1. Organisations and their responsibilities in managing water in the MDB region
Jurisdiction Organisation Responsibilities:       
  1. Environmental water management         
  2. Water resource management         
  3. Water availability determinations         
  4. Water allocation announcements         
  5. Wholesale water delivery         
  6. Operate water infrastructure         
  7. Administer & manage water Legislation and licensing         
  8. Administer and process water trades       
  9. Approve water extraction and use
Comments
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
ACT ACTEW Corporation         x x x     For Canberra  water supply
Department of the Environment, Climate Change, Energy and Water x x x       x x x  
Local councils                    
NSW NSW Office of Water (NOW)   x x x     x x x Process entitlement trades only
NSW Office of Environment and Heritage x                 Management of discretionary environmental water
State Water Corporation         x x   x x Process allocation trades only
Land and Property Management Authority             x     Administer entitlement register
Murrumbidgee Irrigation         x x   x x Trade prerogatives1
Murray Irrigation Limited         x x   x x Trade prerogatives1
Jemalong Irrigation         x x   x x Trade prerogatives1
Coleambally Irrigation Cooperative Ltd         x x   x x Trade prerogatives1
Western Murray Irrigation Ltd         x x   x x Trade prerogatives1
Local councils2                    
Qld Department of Environment and Resource Management x x x x x x x x x  
  SunWater x   x x x x   x x Only administers water allocation within water supply schemes they manage and operate
  Local councils3 x   x   x x        
SA Department for Water   x         x x x  
Minister for the River Murray4       x            
SA Water         x x        
SA Murray–Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board x x x       x   x  
South East Natural Resources Management Board x x x       x   x  
Central Irrigation Trust         x x   x x Trade prerogatives5
Renmark Irrigation Trust         x x   x x  
Qualco-Sunlands Irrigation Trust         x x   x    
Lower Murray Irrigation         x x        
Creeks Pipeline Company         x x        
Local councils6           x        
Vic Department of Sustainability and Environment x x         x      
Goulburn Murray Water Corporation     x x x x x x x  
Lower Murray Water Corporation         x x   x x  
Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water Corporation         x x x x x  
Local councils7                    
MDB Murray–Darling Basin Authority x x x   x          
Australia Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder x                 Manages all Commonwealth environmental water holdings
Outside water report entity Snowy Hydro Ltd x       x x       Transfer water into the MDB

ACT = Australian Capital Territory; MDB = Murray–Darling Basin; NSW = New South Wales; Qld = Queensland; SA = South Australia; Vic = Victoria  

 

  1. Process and approve water trades internal to the irrigation corporation. Intra-state trades and interstate trades require State Water Corporation approval for allocation trades and NOW approval for entitlement trades.
  2. In NSW, local councils hold water access entitlements to abstract water. 
  3. In Queensland, local councils may hold water licences, supplemented water allocations and/or unsupplemented water allocations. 
  4. In South Australia, legislation defines the power of delegation of the relevant minister and the roles of the South Australian State Government departments. In local situations, aspects of the State Government departments’ roles may be shared or contracted to other government departments or private organisations. The relevant ministers are the Minister for Environment and Conservation, the Minister for the River Murray and the Minister for Water. The Minister for the River Murray is directly responsible for allocation announcements within the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse.  
  5. Process and approve water trades internal to the irrigation trust. Intra-state and interstate trades require Department for Water's approval.  
  6. In South Australia, water access entitlements are held by SA Water, who has retail arrangements with local councils for water abstractions.
  7. In Victoria, bulk water access entitlements are held by the water corporations, who have obligations to supply entitlements under the licences referred to in the schedules within their bulk entitlement conversion orders. Water and wastewater management functions under the Water Act 1989 are performed by statutory water corporations (not by local councils).