Plan secured: Neutral test to determine more water for environment

ADDITIONAL water recovered for the environment under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan can only happen if projects have neutral, or positive, socio-economic impacts on basin communities.

That was the agreement reached between the Commonwealth and basin water ministers at the Murray Darling Ministerial Council meeting in Melbourne on Friday. 

Healthy rivers advocate Nicole McKay. Picture: PETER BANNAN

Healthy rivers advocate Nicole McKay. Picture: PETER BANNAN

Up to 450 gigalitres (GL) will be returned to the environment, provided it does not have a negative socio-economic impact on river communities, based on criteria agreed to by the states.

The criteria, yet to be released, will allow up to 450GL to be returned to the environment, in addition to the original 2750GL under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Federal Water Minister David Littleproud said the agreement will protect both jobs and production and will be applied at a local, regional and state level.

"It's a historic agreement and means the Murray-Darling Basin Plan will be delivered," he said, adding two million people who live up and down the basin "now have certainty".

The Murray River. Picture: GEORGIE MORTON

The Murray River. Picture: GEORGIE MORTON

The board of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) will also be expanded to include indigenous representation.

A further $132 million will be allocated to the southern states to deliver the 605GL of down water projects.

Meanwhile, a new regulation under the Water Act 2007 will give basin states more time to fully engage with their communities and deliver better outcomes under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Victorian water minister Lisa Neville said Victoria has already done much of the heavy lifting on water recovery — and the adoption of these criteria will mean further recovery will need to have neutral or positive outcomes for communities. 

To read more of this story, grab a copy of the December 17 edition of The Guardian. 

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