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MDBA recommends water-saving initiatives

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has recommended a 605GL reduction to the Sustainable Diversion Limits in the southern Basin, claiming that the implementation of 36 water-saving projects will reduce the need for irrigation returns.

The MDBA’s recommendation is based on an assessment of the environmental benefits that could be achieved through a package of water-saving initiatives run by state governments, thereby reducing recovery targets in the southern Basin.

“The projects nominated by state governments save water and will achieve environmental outcomes through improved river operations and infrastructure that allow water to be delivered in better ways,” the MDBA said.

“Delivering for the environment with less water means 605GL of water can remain in the system and available for [irrigation].”

MDBA Environmental Manager Carl Binning told The Australian the change in direction is about being more efficient so as to reduce irrigation water cuts as much as possible.

“This is about using environmental water more effectively and smarter so there is no need to collect a further 605GL from irrigators,” he said.

The original Murray-Darling Basin Plan aimed to reduce irrigation water extractions with the water recovery target increasing to 3200GL by 2024.

However, the MDBA is now confident that implementing water projects can deliver the same environmental benefits as the original recovery plan.

The Australian Conservation Foundation have condemned the recommendation to cut the original environmental water recovery target, with spokesman Sam Trezise saying there is not enough proof to suggest the plan will work.

“This is just numbers on paper; there is no evidence these projects will deliver the same environmental benefits as 605GL of actual water [taken out of irrigation allocation] and means one-third of the original Basin plan is not happening,” he said.

The MDBA has called on all state governments to offer opportunities for community consultation and engagement on all the Sustainable Diversion Limit projects during the design phase starting this year.