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What is Commonwealth environmental water?

Water is recovered by the Australian Government through a combination of investments in water-saving infrastructure, water purchases and other water recovery programs. This water becomes part of the Commonwealth's environmental water holdings. Commonwealth environmental water is made available for the purposes of protecting or restoring the environmental assets of the Murray-Darling Basin (the Basin).

Why do we need environmental water?

About 40 per cent of the Basin's natural river flow is diverted for human use, including for irrigation, in an average non-drought year.

Over time reduced flows have caused environmental problems, including:

  • increased salinity
  • increased algal blooms
  • diminished native fish and bird populations
  • poor wetland health

How will environmental water help the Murray-Darling Basin?

Commonwealth environmental water that is held in the Basin is required to be managed in accordance with the environmental watering plan that forms part of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Commonwealth environmental water supports Basin communities and industries by ensuring sustainable water use with benefits such as:

  • improving the ability of wetlands to naturally filter water to improve its quality for drinking and irrigation purposes
  • improving fishing, swimming and boating opportunities, generating tourism
  • increasing native fish and bird populations that will better control invasive insects
  • increasing the number of native birds and bees to pollinate agricultural plants

How does Commonwealth environmental water support the Murray-Darling Basin Plan?

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is a high-level framework for managing the Basin's water resources to better meet the future water needs of the environment, communities and industry.

The Commonwealth's environmental water holdings are managed in accordance with the environmental watering plan, which is part of the Basin Plan. The environmental watering plan includes:

  • environmental objectives and targets
  • principles to be applied in environmental watering
  • an approach for developing a Basin-wide environmental watering strategy, as well as Basin and catchment-scale annual environmental watering priorities.

The Basin Plan also contains a number of water quality and salinity targets, water trading rules and a program for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the Basin Plan.

For more information on how the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office meets the obligations of the Basin Plan see: