Australia`s Murray-Darling Basin is one of the country`s most significant and complex river systems. It supports an array of economic, social, and environmental activities across four states and the Australian Capital Territory. The Murray-Darling Basin covers more than one million square kilometers and accounts for around 14% of the country`s landmass. It is home to over two million people and an abundance of flora and fauna. Unfortunately, the Basin`s health has been deteriorating for several decades due to over-extraction of water, land-use practices, and climate change. In response, the governments of the Basin have developed an intergovernmental agreement on Murray-Darling Basin reform.
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is a blueprint for how the Basin`s water resources should be managed sustainably. The plan has been in operation since 2012, and it aims to balance the needs of agriculture, the environment, and communities reliant on the river system. The plan includes measures such as reducing water usage, improving water quality, and restoring natural flows to wetlands and floodplains.
The intergovernmental agreement on Murray-Darling Basin reform sets out the principles, governance arrangements, and funding arrangements for the Basin Plan. The agreement involves all Basin states and the Australian Government. It is designed to ensure that each jurisdiction shares responsibility for implementing the Basin Plan and that the Plan is implemented consistently across the Basin.
The agreement establishes the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council, which has overall responsibility for the Basin Plan`s implementation. The Council includes the relevant state and federal ministers and is chaired by the Federal Water Minister. The Council provides strategic direction for the Basin Plan and oversees its implementation.
The intergovernmental agreement also establishes the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, which is responsible for developing and implementing the Basin Plan. The Authority is an independent statutory body that reports to the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council. It is responsible for monitoring and reporting on the Basin`s water resources and advising the Council on water management issues.
The agreement also includes funding arrangements for the Basin Plan`s implementation. The Australian Government has committed more than $13 billion to the Plan over 12 years. This funding is being used to improve water efficiency, improve river management, and restore wetlands and floodplains. The Basin states also contribute funding to the Plan.
The intergovernmental agreement on Murray-Darling Basin reform is a critical step in securing the Basin`s future. It provides a framework for collaborative governance, consistent implementation, and sustainable funding arrangements. It is an essential tool in restoring the Basin`s health and ensuring that it can support agriculture, the environment, and communities for generations to come.