The Murray-Darling Basin Authority met on 15 August 2022 on Ngunnawal Country (Canberra).
The ongoing wet conditions across the Basin were the focus of a briefing by MDBA Executive Director of River Management, Andrew Reynolds. Alongside flood management at Hume and Dartmouth dams, the MDBA has reinstated community briefings for those immediately downstream of Hume Dam and increased media engagement. Authority members thanked the river operators for their careful and proactive management of dam levels that have been persistently high for the past 12 months. The Authority noted that these flows led to some favourable environmental outcomes on the floodplains of the Mid-Murray. As of 15 August, the whole-of-Basin water in storage was 96% capacity.
The Authority reviewed the MDBA’s science pathway and believes we are well placed to deliver our key science commitments, working with the CSIRO and others to ensure these investments fill key knowledge gaps and leverage the work underway, including through the Murray-Darling Water and Environment Research Program.
Authority Chair, Sir Angus Houston, reflected on his valuable listening tour of far-western NSW in late July, taking in Wilcannia, Menindee and Pooncarie. He was accompanied by MDBA Chief Executive Andrew McConville and other senior officials. Sir Angus expressed his gratitude for the time and effort of floodplain graziers, the Barkindji Native Title Group, Menindee elders, local councils, and tourism and community groups to share their unique and crucial insights into the region’s water and land management.
The Authority noted that some progress has been made by New South Wales to deliver their water resource plans (WRPs). Three plans have been received for formal assessment and we are in consultation on a further 4 plans. The MDBA is working with NSW to conduct a pre-submission check for errors and completeness prior to accepting any WRP as formally submitted. This is likely to resolve many issues with plans, prior to formal submission and assessment. The Authority wants to ensure that submitted plans meet requirements and can be recommended to the Minister for accreditation.
Members were pleased to approve the release of the Water Take Report 2020-21 and the SDL Accounting and Reporting Framework 2022. The Authority also noted that the 2020-21 Sustainable Diversion Limit Accounts report was published today on the MDBA website, concurrently with the Compliance Statement on the Inspector-General of Water Compliance website.
The Authority also endorsed the purpose, framework and delivery arrangements for the Murray-Darling Basin Outlook. The Outlook will be delivered in around 18 months’ time and will provide the scientific foundation to inform the Basin Plan Review in 2026. It will outline the historical, present and future environmental, economic, cultural and social conditions to 2050, providing a critical reference point and analysis for future challenges such as climate change.
Updates to the meeting were welcomed from Ben Bruce, the Basin Officials Committee member for South Australia, and from Lyn O’Connell, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.
The next Authority meeting will be held on 21 October 2022.
Sir Angus Houston (Chair)
Professor Stuart Bunn
Dr Jane Doolan
Ms Susan Madden
Mr Rene Woods
Mr Andrew McConville (Chief Executive)