Giving rivers in the southern Murray-Darling Basin the best chance to thrive in the long-term relies on the final pieces of the Basin Plan being implemented, a national water conference heard today.
Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) Acting Chief Executive Andrew Reynolds told delegates at the sold-out River reflections annual water conference that there was now an opportunity to make every drop count, to look after the long-term prosperity of regional communities and industries while caring for our river country.
“These critical final stages of the Basin Plan are a once-in-a-generation chance to improve the rules around river management, to allow water to move through the system more freely – in ways that would benefit people along the river as well as the river environment we rely on,” Mr Reynolds said.
“Prior to the Basin Plan, for 100 years, the Murray River was essentially managed as a pipeline to support towns and agriculture.
“Of course, we all know a river is more than a pipeline, it lives and breathes and connects with its floodplain and the people who have relied on life-giving water for tens of thousands of years.
“That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to push forward with the projects that will bring this chance to life as part of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM).”
Basin state governments came up with a suite of 36 projects to achieve environmental outcomes with less water. These SDLAM projects are critically important to achieve the environmental outcomes of the Basin Plan.
“The SDLAM projects are well on the way, but there’s still hard work ahead,” Andrew Reynolds said.
“These critically important projects will achieve the environmental outcomes of the Basin Plan, using less water.
“Once they’re in place, we will see a step change in the health of our rivers, floodplains, and wetlands, as we deliver water in a way that more closely mirrors the natural pattern of movement through the Basin.”
Mr Reynolds said the state governments came up with the projects and agreed to implement them by 2024, which was fast approaching.
“In exchange, 605 gigalitres of water would stay in the consumptive pool rather than being recovered as water for the environment,” he said.
“While I appreciate and understand how hard these projects are to implement, from a river operator’s perspective, they’re gold. They will provide increased flexibility for river operators to meet the needs of all users in an increasingly complex system.
Mr Reynolds said strong and practical partnerships between state governments and local landowners would see the final pieces of the plan implemented.
“The good news is 29 projects are well on their way or completed. However, there is significant work to be done to get the final seven projects over the line,” he said.
“The work that state governments have left to do is hard, really hard. It will take time and it will need community support, lots of talking and persistence.
“If we’re going to give our rivers the best chance, these final elements of the Basin Plan have to be completed.”
The River reflections annual water conference is taking place in Mildura, Victoria on Wednesday, 1 June and Thursday, 2 June 2022.
River reflections provides the space and time for the diverse communities and industries of the Murray-Darling Basin to come together. It is an opportunity to share innovations in water management, knowledge and lessons learned while celebrating achievements.
Acting Chief Executive, Murray-Darling Basin Authority
Andrew Reynolds has more than 26 years of experience managing major water supply infrastructure, the past 8 with the MDBA. He has worked extensively in the fields of engineering project delivery, dam safety and river management, and is a past chair of the Australian National Committee on Large Dams (ANCOLD).
Andrew holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Agricultural) with Honours from the University of Melbourne. Andrew has been acting Chief Executive since August 2021, and his substantive position with the MDBA is Executive Director of River Management.