The Australian Government has accredited the first Water Resource Plan (WRP) under the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, providing certainty for water users and communities in the Warrego–Paroo–Nebine area.

At a Murray–Darling Basin Ministerial Council in June 2017 in Canberra, ministers endorsed a package of credible environmental projects that will help meet the Basin Plan water recovery target, and overcome physical and other constraints to delivering environmental water.

The Warrego-Paroo-Nebine Water Resource Plan area is located in South West Queensland and Northern New South Wales, covering a total area of 253 000 km². The original Basin Plan, agreed in 2012, aims for water recovery outcomes equivalent to 3200 GL per annum by 2024.

This includes 450 GL to be recovered through efficiency measures. The Ministerial Council has commissioned consultants Ernst and Young to undertake an independent analysis of how best to recover this final 450 GL. The analysis is expected to be finished by December 2017.

This water is needed to enhance environmental benefits along the river, reduce salinity in the Coorong and Lower Lakes, and increase flows to Coorong to ensure the ongoing health of the internationally renowned Ramsar site.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the accreditation of the WRP was a significant milestone in the implementation of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.

“This is the first of 36 WRPs required under the Basin Plan, and underlines our commitment to the Basin Plan, and to managing the nation’s water resources strategically and with long-term vision, to support strong rural and regional communities,” Mr Joyce said.

“WRPs give local communities and irrigators the certainty they need about water planning and sharing going forward, including annual limits and rules on the use of water for consumptive and environmental purposes.

“WRPs are tailored to meet the individual needs of each area, but together will underpin a consistent approach to water management across the Basin.

“The Commonwealth has also undertaken some strategic water recovery in the Warrego, in order to meet Basin Plan requirements while minimising socio-economic impacts.

“Under the 320 GL scenario for the Northern Basin supported by Basin ministers last week, the government has now achieved the entire shared recovery target for Queensland – meaning no further water recovery will be needed across the Warrego-Paroo-Nebine or Queensland Border Rivers areas.”

South Australia’s Minister for the River Murray, Ian Hunter, has welcomed the commitment by Murray-Darling Basin ministers to progress key elements of the Basin Plan to protect the long-term health of the river system.

Mr Hunter has urged the council to now turn its focus to delivering the final 450 GL of water promised to sustain the river.

“We now have clear agreement on how to progress two of the three key elements highlighted in the COAG plan.

“I expect to see the Commonwealth and all states now prioritise the Basin Plan’s only remaining water recovery requirement: the final 450 GL by 2024,” Mr Hunter said.

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