The Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP) will not meet its water recovery targets by the legislated June 2024 deadline. The $13 billion plan will be extended after the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) advised federal environment Minister Tanya Plibersek the plan would return 750GL less than the 3,200GL target.
In 2017, basin state governments pitched 36 projects that collectively were supposed to deliver the same environmental outcomes as removing 605GL from the consumptive pool of water. Only 14 of the projects are operational, with a further six “likely” to be operational by June next year, according to an assessment by the MDBA. The Commonwealth plans to address a 44.3GL shortfall in the ‘Bridging the Gap’ target by buying that water off willing sellers across six different catchments. The tender for that water closed in May and offers to buy water entitlements from irrigators will be made from August.
MDBA chair Sir Angus Houston said the Plan implementation was at a critical juncture. “It is important that the challenges inhibiting the full delivery of the Basin Plan are quickly addressed to provide a clear pathway forward,” he said in a statement. Plibersek reinforced the Albanese government’s commitment to delivering the MDBP in full including the extra 450GL of water for the environment. Plibersek said the Commonwealth would work with those governments “to seek agreement on a new phase to extend the deadlines and deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full”.