Talk basin progress: authority

By Country News

All jurisdictions must do more to communicate the progress achieved under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, according to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

With the current outlook for drier and hotter conditions, the MDBA told an authority meeting its key communities received up-to-date information about their role and the basin plan’s operation.

MDBA’s head of river management Andrew Reynolds told authority members that water conservation was the priority for water managers across the Murray system and all basin jurisdictions were tasked with managing the finite resource with care.

‘‘The authority was briefed on the challenges of operating the river to meet requirements to supply water to all water users including communities, agricultural businesses and the environment,’’ a report from the meeting said.

‘‘Stakeholder concerns and the need to communicate issues associated with river operations effectively was emphasised.

‘‘A report on the management and accounting of system losses in water delivery was considered and will be published in the coming weeks.’’

The upcoming deadlines for water resource plans were discussed, with the authority revealing all states had requested an extension from Federal Water Minister David Littleproud to submit their plan.

‘‘The authority urged states to use any extension of time to ensure the plans submitted were robust,’’ the meeting report said.

‘‘They highlighted the importance of appropriate community consultations, including with Aboriginal traditional owners.

‘‘The authority also urged states to ensure details of the mechanisms they would use to regulate and account for all forms of water diversions, including floodplain harvesting, were clear and robust, and highlighted the need for environmental water to be adequately protected in all state plans.

‘‘The authority highlighted that even with the extension, without sustained effort, the finalisation of the plans this year remains a key risk.’’

The fish deaths in the Lower Darling were a key conversation during the meeting, with Professor Rob Vertessy discussing the independent assessment of the 2018-19 fish deaths in the Lower Darling, which is due to present its final report to the Agriculture and Water Resources Minister at the end of March.

Prof Vertessy also briefed authority members on the committee’s work program to help guide the MDBA’s next phase of work on climate change as well as monitoring and evaluation.

The next meeting of the authority is scheduled for April 2 in Dubbo.