The Basin Plan for the Murray-Darling
The Basin Plan was signed into law by the Commonwealth Parliament in November 2012.
The Basin Plan and associated documents are available from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority's website.
Overview of the Basin Plan
The Basin Plan includes enforceable limits on the quantities of surface water and groundwater that can be taken from the Murray-Darling Basin. The sustainable diversion limits (SDLs) are set initially at 2,750 gigalitres less than current diversions in the rivers. This is to be achieved by 2019 with the water being recovered by the Commonwealth to provide additional water for the environment.
An SDL adjustment mechanism is included in the Plan which potentially allows for some 650 GL of environmental outcomes to be delivered through improved use and management of environmental water rather than recovery of water. The Basin Plan also allows for additional 450 GL of water to be recovered by 2024 potentially increasing the water recovered for the environment to 3,200 GL if operational constraints in the system are removed. There is to be no social or economic impact on regional communities through recovery of the additional 450 GL.
Inland NSW makes up the largest proportion of the Murray-Darling Basin. Most NSW river valleys have experienced significant buyback of water licences and removal of water from agricultural production, particularly in the southern valleys, as the Commonwealth proceeds to obtain the volumes required to meet the SDLs.
The Basin Plan requires detailed Water Resource Plans, Catchment Environmental Watering Plans and Water Quality and Salinity Management Plans to be developed by the Basin States.
NSW Government approach to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan
Signing the Intergovernmental Agreement and National Partnership Agreement
As part of the Basin Plan implementation, the Commonwealth prepared an Intergovernmental Agreement and a National Partnership Agreement which outlines jurisdictions' commitments and responsibilities. These were signed by the Prime Minister and the NSW Premier on 27 February 2014. As a result, NSW will receive $80 million in funding until June 2020 to implement the requirements of the Basin Plan and to develop feasibility assessments of potential SDL offset projects.
NSW had long resisted signing the Agreements because there were a number of areas of community concern with the Basin plan.
However by February 2014 the current Commonwealth Government had:
- agreed to give priority water infrastructure and environmental works and measures over water licence buybacks with some $700 million in funding to the NSW Government for water savings projects and $650 million for irrigation operators to improve water use efficiencies
- agreed to put a cap on the total volume of water that will be purchased of 1,500 GL.
- reviewed the SDLs for two NSW brackish aquifers which resulted in agreement to SDLs at a level consistent with NSW Office of Water assessment and which can allow further regional development
- increased the funding allocation to NSW under the Murray Darling Basin Economic Diversification Program
- committed to provide funding to implement the Basin Plan and undertake SDL business case development.
What does this mean?
NSW will commence implementation of the Basin Plan with the development of water resource plans and environmental watering plans and associated modelling, monitoring and communication.
NSW Office of Water will develop business cases for several potential SDL offset projects that could reduce the amount of water that will need to be recovered.
NSW will implement the Commonwealth Basin Plan consistent with the level of funding provided by the Commonwealth to do so. Funding has been provided for implementation up until June 2020 and NSW has fought hard to ensure there will be no additional cost on NSW water users of implementing the Basin Plan.
- Media release 27 February 2014 Historic Murray Darling Basin agreements signed (PDF 128 KB).
As a result of the Commonwealth agreeing to limit its buybacks to a total of 1,500 GL across the Basin, the order that commenced on 15 January 2013 imposing a three percent limit on the buyback of NSW surface water licences for environmental purposes in the Murray-Darling Basin was repealed on 24 February 2014. If you have any questions regarding the repealed order, phone 1800 353 104 or email email@example.com
The NSW Government position has been consistent on various drafts and the final Basin Plan. Previous responses include:
- Basin Plan Update (May 2013) NSW issues and current progress (PDF 53 KB)
- Media release 22 November 2012 NSW disappointed by final Basin Plan (PDF 28 KB)
- Media release 19 October 2011 Land and water panel to advise NSW Government (PDF 200 KB)
- NSW Government submission on the proposed Murray Darling Basin Plan (PDF 3 MB)
- NSW Government submission on the proposed Murray Darling Basin Plan - Community information (PDF 714 KB).
Prior to the Basin Plan, NSW already had in place a number of water recovery programs to return water to the environment, and lead the way in Murray-Darling Basin reform through measures that range from institutional, legislative and policy water reforms to environmental water recovery, works and measures. These achievements are summarised in Water reform in the NSW Murray-Darling Basin - Summary of regional water reform and environmental water recovery in NSW 1996–2011 (PDF 2.6 MB).
Since the early 1990s, about 860,000 megalitres of surface water has been recovered in NSW, for the river environment in the Murray-Darling Basin and in the Snowy River.
Groundwater entitlements in the six major alluvial aquifers are being reduced by 942,000 megalitres over 10 years, and 67,000 megalitres per year has been saved by the Cap & Pipe the Bores program.
Water sharing plans created by the NSW Government, and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan developed by the MDBA for the Commonwealth Government, are required under separate legislation. NSW developed its first round of water sharing plans in 2004. Although the Basin Plan prescribes sustainable diversion limits that differ from the long-term average annual extraction limits in some water sharing plans, all NSW water sharing plans in the Murray-Darling Basin were completed by October 2012 for the following reasons:
- Water Management Act 2000 provisions for developing water sharing plans and licensing water extractions operate independently of the Basin Plan. It is important that the NSW Office of Water continues to implement the Water Management Act 2000 provisions.
- The NSW Government committed under the National Water Initiative and the NSW Government State Plan to complete water sharing plans within specified timeframes.
- When a water sharing plan commences, the licensing and approval provisions of the Water Management Act 2000 replace those of the Water Act 1912. Under the Water Management Act 2000, water licences are generally perpetual, unlike the licences they replace, and they are separated from land, creating new opportunities and flexibility for businesses wishing to trade water.
- NSW water sharing plans establish a statutory plan limit or benchmark, against which the impacts of the Commonwealth Basin Plan sustainable diversion limits can be assessed.
- The Office of Water will continue to review its water sharing plans according to Water Management Act 2000 after the Basin Plan is implemented. Water sharing plans amended or replaced after the Basin Plan took effect on 24 November 2012 , will need to be accredited by the MDBA. However, it will remain the Office of Water's responsibility to extend, replace or amend a water sharing plan under NSW legislation.
- Most of the water resource plans required to fully implement the Basin Plan requirements, including the SDLs, will not be prepared by NSW until 2019 when the SDLs in the Basin Plan will take effect.
Download an information sheet NSW water sharing plans and the Commonwealth Murray-Darling Basin Plan - understanding the relationship (PDF 167 KB) for an outline of the relationship between NSW water sharing plans and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
On this page
- Overview of the Basin Plan
- Signing the Intergovernmental Agreement and National Partnership Agreement
- What does this mean?
- Three percent limit
- NSW Government previous responses
- What water recovery has NSW already undertaken?
- NSW water sharing plans and the Commonwealth Basin Plan
- Achieving Sustainable Groundwater Entitlements program
- Murray-Darling Basin
- Water access licence dealings
- Water sharing plans
- Murray-Darling Basin Authority