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Murray-Darling Basin health depends on more than just good water management

Complementary measure projects have the potential to achieve greater environmental benefits throughout the Murray-Darling Basin, according to a recent study conducted by the CSIRO on Murray-Darling Basin Plan (MDBP) implementation.

The CSIRO's report outlines a draft method for assessing the relative environmental benefits of complementary measure projects.

Murray-Darling Basin Authority Head of Environmental Management Carl Binning said the study shows that complementary measure projects can go a long way in helping keep river systems healthy.

"Complementary measures are non-flow activities to help the environment, such as the installation of fishways and fish diversion screens, release of the carp herpes virus, investments to address cold water pollution and riparian management activities and habitat restoration," Binning said.

"We know that complementary measures can play an important role in achieving MDBP outcomes. Both additional water and environmental management are required to deliver a healthy river.

"It is important that we can quantify, assess and compare the potential environmental benefits of different kinds of measures. This information will help governments prioritise any future investments in complementary measures.”

Binning said the method developed by the CSIRO is a positive first step towards managing waterways more sustainably and officially recognising the importance of complementary measures in future approaches.

"The method developed by CSIRO is a major step forward in the ability to evaluate potential complementary measure projects according to their environmental benefits,” he said.

“However, the method will require further development before it could be applied to any package of projects. Complementary measures are not a new concept; the Basin Plan acknowledges that other actions, along with water recovered for the environment, can provide benefits.

"The MDBA acknowledges that complementary measures are important actions to take but cannot serve as substitutes for flow related outcomes.”

CSIRO spokesperson Ian Cresswell said strong scientific collaboration was a key feature of the project.

"We worked with southern Basin jurisdictions and scientific experts throughout the method's development," Cresswell said.

"It was a great opportunity for scientists from across the Basin to get together and work on a common goal to better understand ways to enhance the environmental benefits of water being recovered through the Basin Plan."

Take a look at the CSIRO’s full report here