The Basin Plan allows for a Commonwealth program for enhanced environmental outcomes from the easing or removal of constraints (Glossary) and the addition of 450GL per year of environmental water above the 2750GL.
The enhanced environmental outcomes are described in Schedule 5 of the Basin Plan and focus on:
- managing salinity and water quality issues in the Coorong and Lower Lakes
- improving in-stream outcomes and connections with low to middle level floodplains and habitats adjacent to rivers in the southern Murray Darling Basin
- providing additional opportunities for floodplain watering, in conjunction with removing or easing constraints
The additional 450 GL of water recovery was included in the Basin Plan on the condition that there would be neutral or positive socio-economic impacts from recovering this water.
Why recover more water?
The Basin Plan requires that environmental works and measures (supply measures) only be recognised as providing environmental outcomes up to 544GL. After this amount additional water recovery is required on condition of no socio-economic impact, at a ratio of 1:1 of environmental works and measures to recover additional water (known as the 5% rule).
Victoria has been recovering water for the environment and to improve productivity for nearly 30 years and recognises the benefit of continued innovation in the irrigation sector and delivering environmental outcomes. Victoria has outlined its principles for public investment in consultation with the Victorian public in Water for Victoria. This enables additional water to be recovered from rural water infrastructure projects without having impacts to existing users.
The Minister for Water has written to water corporations to continue to discuss options for further water recovery with their communities, in a way which is socio-economically neutral or positive.
The Victorian Government recognises that water alone will not achieve the best environmental outcomes without investing in improving the condition of river banks, riparian habitat and managing pest plant and animals, known as Complimentary Measures (Glossary). More information is available in the Victorian Waterway Management Strategy.
The Victorian Government commissioned an independent social and economic analysis to understand how irrigators and communities across the southern connected basin (NSW, Victoria and SA) have been impacted by the Murray Darling Basin Plan, as well as to identify potential further impacts.
There have been numerous studies and data which have looked at the socio-economic impacts of the Basin Plan:
- Regulation Impact Statement Basin Plan Water Act 2007 (Cth)
- Analysis of efficiency measures in the Murray-Darling Basin (EY)
- Basin Plan – GMID socio-economic impact assessment (RMCG)
- MDBA Community profiles
The Victorian Government has drawn out the findings of a number of these key studies in order to inform discussions by the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council in December 2018 on socio-economic criteria beyond participation for water recovery projects. These criteria are intended to ensure that the socio-economic outcomes for Basin communities are neutral or positive from additional water recovery through ‘efficiency measures’.
The document developed by the Victorian Government shows the evidence of socio-economic impacts of water recovery to date, and should inform decision making on how any additional water recovery is undertaken.