The Basin Officials Committee (BOC) met in Canberra on 21 July 2022 on the country of the First People of the Ngunnawal nation.
The BOC welcomed David Fredericks PSM, the Secretary of the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW). Mr Fredericks spoke to the importance of Basin Governments working collaboratively together to achieve Basin Plan outcomes and the window of opportunity presented by election of a new Australian government.
The BOC then received updates across a range of topics, including:
- progress in implementing Northern Basin Toolkit measures
- development of the water market reform roadmap, which is now due to be delivered to the Commonwealth Minister by September 2022.
The BOC noted progress on the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) program, including discussions held at sub-committee level on options for shortfall management. Members discussed how current BOC priorities and associated workplans might be adjusted to reflect and respond to updated priorities in 2022. This included a discussion on how Basin Governments could work together to deliver existing water recovery commitments.
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) provided a detailed update on activities undertaken as part of the Capacity and Delivery Shortfall Program. Key elements of this program include:
- assessing the cumulative impact of applications for new or increased extractions downstream of the Barmah Choke. This work is ongoing, but the MDBA will soon publish two new reports: Area of horticultural development in the lower Murray-Darling Basin and the Investigation into the location of horticultural water demands.
- the Barmah-Millewa feasibility study which is investigating options to maintain, and optimise the capacity to move water through the Barmah-Millewa reach. The BOC agreed to make public the preliminary scoping report associated with this project.
The BOC also noted the appointment of Mr Graeme Turner as chair of the Independent Expert Panel, replacing the outgoing chair, Dr Jane Doolan. During 2022-23, the Independent Expert Panel will, amongst other things, continue to provide expert oversight and guidance on the delivery of shortfall response plans and the development of a decision-making framework to assist Basin governments in resolving system-wide river operations issues.
Members discussed the MDBA’s proposed approach for providing external assurance on the method for conducting any future SDLAM reconciliation. The Basin Plan requires that the Authority undertake a reconciliation of the SDLAM if it appears that a 2024 determination would produce a different result to that conducted in 2017. The BOC and the Authority will continue to work together during 2022 to resolve a position on the modelling platform to be used for conducting a 2024 SDLAM reconciliation.
The BOC received an update from Mr Daniel Blacker (Deputy Inspector General) on the work of the Inspector-General of Water Compliance (IGWC).
The BOC noted the work being undertaken by the Environmental Water Committee (EWC) in advancing coordinated environmental water protection and use across jurisdictions. Over the coming year, the EWC will focus on providing strategic advice to the BOC on four key issues: environmental water protection measures; First Nations involvement in environmental water management; climate change implications and adaptation options for environmental water management; and improved system connectivity and operating arrangements for environmental water.
The BOC also noted updates from the MDBA on water resource availability and key water management activities, the Independent Review of the Joint Programs’ Work Plan and Budget, and the Integrated River Modelling Uplift project.
The next meeting of the BOC is currently scheduled for September 2022.
About the BOC
The BOC has 6 members – one senior official from each Basin jurisdiction, including the Australian Government – and provides advice to both the MDBA and the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council on matters such as Basin Plan implementation and Basin water management policy. The BOC also makes high-level decisions on River Murray operations.
BOC’s workplan is aligned to deliver the priorities that Basin water ministers agreed in November 2020.