The Murray-Darling Basin Plan was developed to improve the health of the river and its floodplains by putting aside water for the environment. The Basin Plan was signed into law November 2012 under the Commonwealth Water Act 2007.

The Basin Plan sets limits on how much water can be taken from the Basin for irrigation, drinking water, industry or for other purposes in the future – these limits are called Sustainable Diversion Limits, or SDLs (Glossary). The SDLs come into effect in 2019.

Water for the environment

The Basin states (Glossary) and the Federal Government agreed that 2,750 gigalitres (GL) of water from across the Basin will be delivered to the environment:

  • most of this water comes from buying water shares from farmers, and by making water use more efficient.
  • up to 650 GL can be deducted from the 2,750 GL total by investing in projects that deliver the same environmental outcomes using less water. 605 GL of projects have been approved

An additional 450 GL can be recovered if there are no socio-economic impacts to doing so.

Victoria’s share of the total water target (2,750 GL) is 1,075 GL.

How the water is used

The water is being used to improve the health of the Basin’s:

  • rivers
  • wetlands
  • floodplains
  • plant and animal habitats

We’re already seeing some exciting environmental outcomes for river, wetland and floodplain ecosystems – like recent waterbird breeding events at Barmah Forest

Water for the environment has important social, cultural and economic benefits. It supports recreational activities like fishing and boating, sustains Country for Traditional Owners and improves water quality for farmers.

History of Basin management

Before the introduction of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, the Commonwealth, Victorian, New South Wales and South Australian governments managed the Basin under:

  • the 1915 River Murray Waters Agreement, and
  • the 1987 Murray-Darling Basin Agreement, which included the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland

In 2007 the Commonwealth Government took on a greater role in Basin water management by passing the Water Act 2007 (the Act). The Act integrated the management of Basin water resources, including new limits on how much water can be taken from the Basin's surface and groundwater systems.

The Act established the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to prepare a Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

More information

Page last updated: 03/04/19