The Murray-Darling Basin is Australia's largest river system, extending from north of Roma in Queensland to Goolwa in South Australia.
It covers half of Victoria and three quarters of New South Wales, generating about 40 per cent of the nation's agricultural income; the Basin includes two thirds of the nation's irrigated farm land.
Victoria and the Murray Darling Basin
The Basin is home to more than two million people, including about half a million Victorians.
It is home to about 30 Aboriginal nations whose spiritual connection to their land, water and environment has extended over many thousands of years.
Victoria's share of the Basin
Of the 77,000 kilometres of rivers in the Basin, Victoria is home to part of the Murray River and its Victorian tributaries including the Kiewa, Ovens, Broken, Goulburn, Campaspe and Loddon river systems.
The network of rivers, wetlands and floodplains is habitat to ancient river red gums and many plants and animals, with more than 400 high value wetlands in 30 wetland systems across Victoria's north.
These range from large areas of floodplain, such as the Barmah and Gunbower forests, to small wetlands on farms and public land.
Northern Victoria contributes significantly to the Australian economy through irrigated and dryland farming and associated industries.
The Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID) is the largest irrigation district in the Murray Darling Basin, covering approximately 68,000 square kilometres, and servicing 15,000 customers on pumped or gravity fed irrigation systems. The district supports 12,600 farm businesses, and in 2010-11 contributed about $1.6 billion gross value of agricultural production in Victoria.
The north east catchment in the irrigation region contributed $121.2 million GVIAP the same year.
In north western Victoria on the south bank of the Murray River, the Sunraysia irrigation region is a significant producer of dried fruit, table grapes, wine grapes, almonds, pistachios, citrus and vegetables. The region exports about $340 million of agricultural exports annually.
Managing the Basin's water resources
Spanning four states, and the Australian Capital Territory, the Murray-Darling Basin has required a unique approach to managing its water resources. In the past, cooperation between the Commonwealth, Victorian, New South Wales and South Australian Governments has been determined under the 1915 River Murray Waters Agreement, and the 1987 Murray-Darling Basin Agreement, which included the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland.
In 2007 the Commonwealth Government assumed a greater role in Basin water management when it passed the Water Act 2007. The Water Act 2007 integrated the management of Basin water resources, including new limits on how much water can be taken from the Basin's surface and groundwater systems.
It established the independent Murray-Darling Basin Authority, which was charged with preparing a Murray-Darling Basin Plan. For more information go to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
Water Resource Plans for Victoria
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan requires Victoria to prepare water resource plans by June 2019.
Victoria, SA, NSW, Queensland and the ACT have to prepare water resource plans for areas described in the Basin Plan.
Over the next three years Victoria will produce plans for its five water resource plan areas including:
- Wimmera-Mallee surface water
- Wimmera-Mallee groundwater
- Victorian Murray surface water
- Northern Victoria surface water
- Goulburn Murray groundwater
Water resource plans will bring together existing arrangements under Victoria's legislation, bulk water and environmental entitlements, groundwater management plans, sustainable water strategies and other water planning instruments.
The plans must show how Victoria will comply with sustainable diversion limits on the amount of surface water and groundwater that can be taken and used in catchments from 1 July 2019.
They will also consider:
- environmental watering
- risks from climate change and drought
- how medium or high risks to water availability and quality will be managed
- Aboriginal water values and uses.
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority will assess Victoria's water resource plans before they can be accredited by the Federal Minister for Water.
Victoria's water resource plans will be developed in partnership with water corporations and catchment management authorities and in consultation with environmental managers, Traditional Owners, industry bodies, local government and Basin communities.
Victoria has prepared an initial risk assessment of current and future risks to the condition and continued availability of water within its share of the Murray-Darling Basin.
The 2016 preliminary assessment will be used for consultation in each water resource plan area, and in discussions with NSW and South Australia to refine the assessment with interstate considerations.
The assessment will help guide future developments in Victoria's water policy, as water resource plans show how those risks identified as medium or high will be managed.
For more details on Victoria's water resource plans please email WRPteam@delwp.vic.gov.au.