River Murray allocations increase to 31 per cent as Basin Plan implementation enters new phase

The minimum water allocations for South Australian River Murray irrigators in 2019-20 will increase to 31 per cent today thanks to recent water resource condition improvements.

The announcement comes on the same day as the Murray-Darling Basin Plan reaches a significant milestone with long-term sustainable diversion limits now in effect across the Basin.

These sustainable diversion limits set out how much water can be taken from the basin and how much is required for the environment.

Minister for Environment and Water David Speirs said today’s milestone demonstrates that those who proposed to blow the plan up or suffocate it through shallow politicking would have been unable to deliver the environmental outcomes that can now be delivered across the Basin.

“Whilst the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is not perfect, it is the only plan we have got, and its delivery is critical for the future of the river system and South Australia,” said Minister Speirs.

“That’s why since day one the Marshall Liberal Government has been focussed on the implementation of the plan, working constructively with all Basin States and the Commonwealth to deliver key water for our river and communities.

“Today, sustainable diversion limits take effect throughout the Basin and from now all states will need to ensure key accountability and transparency requirements under the Basin Plan are in place. This means water for the environment and will benefit South Australian communities and the health of our river.​

“There is real progress on a range of fronts, including the recent announcement by the Federal Government for $129 million for funding for constraints projects which are aimed at ensuring environmental water can be better managed and can water more wetlands and floodplains.

“As always there are upstream voices who will agitate for less environmental water being delivered but the Marshall Liberal Government will continue to work to ensure we get the 450GL we are entitled to under the plan.

“While the notional target of 62GL in efficiency measures as an offset to unlock earlier benefits for irrigators upstream is still being progressed, we need to be very clear that this in no way impacts the 450GL by 2024 which is what will be delivered under the plan.

“Sadly, the former Labor Government made an art form of delivering slogans and posturing which failed to deliver real outcomes and slowed implementation down to a crawl.

“We now have the plan back on track and with state and federal elections out of the way, we have some clear space to see more real action to improve the overall health of the river system.”

On the water allocation increase announced today, Minister Speirs said he remains cautiously optimistic that allocations will continue to rise as the year progresses.

“Based on information provided to me by the Department for Environment and Water (DEW), and the slow but consistent increase we’ve seen since March, I remain hopeful we’ll see further increases as the winter in-flow season progresses,” said Minister Speirs.

“It’s a positive trend we’re seeing and the increase from 26 per cent last month to 31 per cent today will hopefully offer some reassurance for South Australian River Murray water entitlement holders.”

After two consecutive years with low rainfall and inflows across the Murray-Darling Basin, the volume of water in Murray-Darling Basin Authority controlled storages is around 37 per cent of capacity and increasing.

The increased allocation is based on the latest advice from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

“However, we’re not ignoring the Bureau of Meteorology’s long-term weather outlook, which continues to predict warmer and drier than average conditions across the Murray-Darling Basin over the next few months,” said Minister Speirs.

“It’s very much a wait-and-see scenario at the moment, but we’ll be monitoring the situation closely and DEW will provide revised statements on a fortnightly basis while we remain below 100 per cent water allocation.”

Private carryover will be available for eligible entitlement holders in 2019-20.

Based on climate conditions over the last 30 years and current water resource conditions, there is a 90 per cent likelihood that water allocations will reach at least 91 per cent in 2019-20. For more information about water allocations, members of the community can visit the Department for Environment and Water’s website.

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