Proposed amendments as a result of the Northern Basin Review

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The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has recently completed a review of the northern basin water recovery targets. The need to review the targets was identified in 2012 when the Basin Plan was passed in recognition that knowledge of some northern areas was not as well developed as others.

The three year review involved substantial new research into socio-economic, hydrology and environmental aspects of the northern basin. It also included consultation with northern basin communities, including industries and Aboriginal groups.

Based on the research and feedback from communities, the MDBA is proposing the water recovery target be reduced from 390 gigalitre (GL) to 320 GLs on the basis that the Australian, Queensland and New South Wales governments commit to implementing certain measures aimed at improving water management. This means more water will be available for industries and communities.

The MDBA is also proposing a change in the way water is recovered by reducing the shared reduction amount and increasing local reduction targets in some areas.

A local reduction target is the volume of water needed to meet the local environmental needs of a catchment. Local recovery in any catchment can also provide benefits for catchments downstream, and overall health of the system.

The shared reduction is the volume required to meet environmental outcomes at the bottom of the system in the Barwon–Darling. This volume is called the shared reduction because all tributaries to the Barwon–Darling River can potentially contribute to meeting this target.

As a result of the research, the MDBA have found water recovery has already effected some communities more than others, and these communities are still feeling the effects of water recovery, especially smaller economies that are more irrigation-dependent. The proposed change should reduce further impacts in many northern basin communities, but some communities will feel further effects, especially in the Lower–Balonne. The MDBA is recommending governments consider priority assistance for communities to help them adjust to the proposed changes.

The MDBA is also recommending governments and communities find ways to improve access to waterways for Aboriginal people and improve engagement in water planning and management.

You can review the supporting documents including a snapshot of the proposed Basin Plan amendments and the research reports.

Interested parties are invited to provide feedback or to support the proposed Basin Plan amendments for the northern basin by making a submission. You can do this by lodging a submission through our online portal. All submissions must be received by 5pm (AEST) on 10 February 2017.

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