Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012
Outcome 4: Sustainable water
‘Improving water management to promote resilient and sustainable communities.’
Adaptation to climate change, wise water use, secure water supplies, and improved health of rivers, waterways and freshwater ecosystems by supporting research, and reforming the management and use of water resources.
Main responsibilities for this outcome
Continuing the national program of water reform, including implementing the National Water Initiative to achieve better planning and establish efficient and effective national water markets.
Working with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and Basin governments to deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, by implementing programs which support reform in the Murray-Darling Basin.
Investing in infrastructure with state and territory governments, industry and communities across Australia, particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin, to improve the sustainability of rural water use.
Acquiring water to bridge the gap between the sustainable diversion limits to be included in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and existing diversions of water.
Helping secure water supplies for towns and cities, and assisting households and businesses to use water more efficiently.
Assisting states, territories and landowners to improve their management of rivers and wetlands, particularly sites of international and national importance.
Providing communities with greater confidence in regulatory decisions on coal seam gas and coal mining developments that are likely to have a significant impact on water resources, through the Office of Water Science and the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development.
Using the Commonwealth environmental water holdings to restore and protect the health of rivers and wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin. Implementing other water related measures as required by the government, such as further development of the National Water Quality Management Strategy.
Water Efficiency Division
Water Reform Division
Office of Water Science
Commonwealth Environmental Water Office
- Help communities and industries, particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin, become more resilient, sustainable and better positioned to adapt to future water availability.
- Help make irrigation significantly more efficient and ensure that water savings are shared between irrigators and the environment.
- Implement reforms that deliver more efficient use of water resources.
- Develop an effective and transparent water market.
- Help urban communities and businesses use water resources more efficiently and better secure their water supply.
- Improve the health of rivers, wetlands and freshwater ecosystems.
- Implement the Australian Government's ‘bridge the gap’ commitment for the Murray-Darling Basin by recovering water for environmental use through water purchase and infrastructure initiatives.
- Support key bilateral country partners to improve their water management.
- Improve community confidence in decision making concerning the impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining developments on water resources.
1000 gigalitres of environmental water delivered since inception
In April 2012, a milestone of 1000 gigalitres of Commonwealth environmental water delivered to wetlands and rivers in the Murray-Darling Basin was reached. Environmental water has benefited important environmental assets, including Hattah Lakes in Victoria, the Macquarie Marshes in NSW and lakes Alexandrina and Albert in South Australia, along with rivers including the Goulburn and Murrumbidgee. Besides improving river and wetland ecosystem health, the water has been used to ensure the protection and conservation of Murray Cod, river red gums and waterbirds.
More than halfway to bridging the gap
Environmental water recovery efforts to bridge the gap to the new sustainable diversion limit in the Murray-Darling Basin have provided for an increase in the average annual volume of water available for the environment of around 1522 gigalitres by the end of 2011-12. This is more than halfway to achieving the proposed reduction in surface water diversions in the draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan of 2750 gigalitres. Water for the Future initiatives account for the majority of the water recovered so far to bridge the gap. Substantial irrigation modernisation projects are under way in all Basin states, and contracted water recoveries through infrastructure works are now approaching half of the 600 gigalitres of gap bridging water expected under the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure program.
More than $1 billion in funding has been invested in irrigation infrastructure to deliver water reform. This investment will improve the efficiency of irrigation networks to fix and replace old, leaky systems, modernise on-farm infrastructure, and rationalise and upgrade delivery systems.
Northern Victoria Irrigation Renewal Project, Stage 2 (NVIRP2)
On 18 October 2011, the Australian and Victorian governments signed a contract for Stage 2 of the $1.2 billion Northern Victoria Irrigation Renewal Project (NVIRP2). The project is the largest Australian Government investment in irrigation infrastructure and will produce 214 gigalitres in water savings. The project will help restore the Murray River to health and deliver a world class irrigation system for northern Victoria's food producers. NVIRP2 includes an on-farm irrigation modernisation project which will complement the NVIRP2 irrigation infrastructure upgrade, enabling farmers to realise the full benefit of both off-farm and on-farm irrigation modernisation.
Finalisation of the National Water Knowledge and Research Platform
The National Water Knowledge and Research Platform, prepared after extensive discussions with states and the research community, was finalised by the COAG Standing Council for Environment and Water.
The objective of the platform is for key decisions on water policy, management and use in Australia to be based on best available and continuously improving knowledge and information. The platform identifies national priority water knowledge and research needs for the next five years. The platform does not seek to describe governance models, funding options or budget for the supply of research services; rather it focuses on identifying priorities and establishing consistent approaches for obtaining and using research in priority areas.
Establishment of the Office of Water Science
The Office of Water Science was established in November 2011 in response to the Australian Government's initiative to improve scientific research, and increase community confidence in decision making processes regarding the impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining developments on water resources. Since its establishment the Office of Water Science has:
- established and supported the Interim Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Coal Mining
- implemented the Australian Government's responsibilities under the National Partnership Agreement on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development
- engaged a range of organisations to undertake key knowledge research projects, including commencement of data collection for bioregional assessments.
Establishment of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office
In December 2011, a Commonwealth Environmental Water Office was established. Operating as a distinct entity, it provides separation within the department between the statutory position of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and other Murray-Darling Basin policy and program roles. The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder was made a dedicated statutory office position. Please refer to the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder Annual Report in this chapter for details.
Launch of the National Hydrologic Modelling Platform
As part of the 2008 Council of Australian Governments (COAG) National Hydrologic Modelling Platform (formerly the National Hydrologic Modelling Strategy), the department established a funding arrangement with eWater Limited in May 2012 to adopt their source model. The COAG initiative will help ensure cross-border consistency in water resource planning and management. It links science, policy and management to help policy makers and operators consider future scenarios and alternative water management options for catchments, urban environments and river systems.
The National Hydrologic Modelling Platform is the culmination of more than 20 years of research, development and significant collaboration with governments, national water authorities, private industry partners and Australia's leading hydrologic and ecological scientists. The Australian Government will provide almost $4 million to support participating states (New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory) adopt the model.