Water Journal : Water Journal June 2014
WATER JUNE 2014 36 Ozwater Report WATER MANAGEMENT IN THE MURRAY-DARLING BASIN Three AWA Specialist Networks -- Rural Water, Catchment Management and Environmental Management -- organised a special stream on Water Management in the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) as part of Ozwater'14. This stream informed delegates of the complexities, challenges, key issues and opportunities in rural water management, and its interactions with urban communities in and outside the Murray-Darling Basin. Willem F Vlotman, AWA Stream Champion and Chair AWA Rural Water Specialist Network, provides this report. IMPLEMENTING THE BASIN PLAN The Water Act 2007 is an Act to make provision for the management of the water resources of the Murray-Darling Basin, and to make provision for other matters of national interest in relation to water and water information, and for related purposes. The Water Act 2007 required the MDBA to prepare a water management plan for the Basin; the "Basin Plan", which was agreed and made into Law in 2012. In March 2014 a milestone was achieved when the Implementation Agreement was signed by all Basin States. Implementing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is highly complex and comprises many concurrent activities (Figure 1). Figure 1. Murray-Darling Basin Plan Implementation Road Map (SDL = Sustainable Diversion Limit). The main objective of all this is to nd a sustainable balance between consumptive water and environmental water use. To achieve this, research, environmental works and monitoring and evaluation is underway through a range of studies that will improve our understanding of the linkage of hydrology to ora and fauna in the wetlands commanded by the Basin Rivers. Changes in hydrologic management aim to improve the lateral and longitudinal connectivity across the Basin, improve the condition of water-dependent vegetation, as well as bird, sh and macro invertebrate populations in a sustainable manner, with due attention to socio-economic needs and effects. FUNDING IMPROVEMENT OF WATER MANAGEMENT When the Water Act 2007 came into effect, considerable investments were slated for improving water ef ciency in rural areas to generate savings that could be shared between consumptive users and the environment. The Department of the Environment (DoE) initiated the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program (SRWUIP), which in April 2014 is in its fth round of funding water savings projects. The ultimate objective is to recover 2,750 GL of water of Long Term Average Annual Yield (LTAAY) or water saved for the environment. At the end of March 2014, 70 per cent of the target that is to be met by June 2019 (Figure 1) had been recovered. The Program achieves water savings through infrastructure ef ciency improvement projects ($6 billion), purchase of water entitlements ($3 billion) and supply measures that aim to achieve the same environmental outcomes with 30--50 per cent less water. The projects (Figure 2) are delivered through State Government departments, irrigation infrastructure operators, irrigation industry associations, industry commodity bodies (e.g. rice growers, tomato growers), individual irrigators, catchment management (resource management) authorities, local government, water utilities and the Commonwealth Scienti c and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) sustainable yields studies. Figure 2. Overview of projects of the Government's investments in the Basin. VICTORIAN WATERWAY MANAGEMENT STRATEGY The Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) oversees policy development for the management of waterway health in Victoria. The 2013 Victorian Waterway Management Strategy provides a framework for government, in partnership with the community, to maintain or improve the condition of rivers, estuaries and wetlands so that they can support environmental, social, cultural and economic values for all Victorians. This strategy was preceded by the Victorian River Health Strategy of 2002, the rst integrated policy framework for managing river health with regional priority setting and decision making for 10 regional areas. A review of the 2002 policy framework identi ed that rivers, estuaries and wetlands need to be managed in an integrated way and objectives and targets needed to be more realistic, while exibility in management is essential to cope with climate variability and extreme events. The second-generation strategy for improving waterway health incorporated new legislation, addressed changes in government priorities and involved extensive stakeholder engagement, including a public consultation process (Figure 3). Future challenges are dealing with changes in the political backdrop, deteriorating funding outlook, implementing effective intervention monitoring and demonstrating return on investment to the public. CLIMATE AND SERVICES OF BOM Australia's climate variability has been long represented by Dorothy Mackellar's verse: "... of droughts and ooding rains". While we are indeed a land of droughts and ooding rains, a century of research has allowed us to better understand the climate, including natural variability. The distinctive element in Australian rainfall is the wet periods. Without these, Australia would be a much more arid climate. Four main climate drivers in uence Australia's climate (Figure 4). Detailed descriptions of these can be found at the Bureau's website (www.bom.gov.au).
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