​Media release

Independent study to ensure healthy basin communities

26 May 2017

  • The Australian Government has released terms of reference for the independent analysis of socio-economic impacts of efficiency measures under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
  • The terms of reference were agreed by all Basin ministers at the March meeting of the Murray–Darling Basin Ministerial Council.
  • The independent analysis is being undertaken to ensure any additional water recovery as part of the efficiency measures component of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan meets the requirement for neutral or improved socio-economic outcomes.

The Australian Government has released the terms of reference for an independent analysis of potential socio-economic impacts of efficiency measures (often referred to as 450 GL ‘up-water’) under the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the terms of reference were agreed by all Basin ministers at the last Murray–Darling Basin Ministerial Council meeting in March.

“The Murray–Darling Basin Plan and the 2013 Intergovernmental Agreement on Implementing Water Reform in the Murray Darling Basin mandate that the recovery of an additional 450 GL of ‘up-water’ through efficiency measures can only proceed if it will have no adverse socio-economic impacts on Basin communities and industries,” Minister Joyce said.

“I have heard first-hand from communities across the basin about their concerns about socio-economic impacts of water recovery, and I understand that these impacts can be complex to understand and quantify. They don’t just stop at the farm-gate.

“That is why this independent study will involve a more comprehensive examination of the potential socio-economic impacts of possible efficiency measures at a range of scales. It will also report on strategies that may be required to ensure neutral or improved social and economic outcomes.

“We have now released the terms of reference for the study, because we want Basin communities to have confidence that we have listened to them, and we are working to address their concerns.

“I remain committed to the triple-bottom line outcomes of the Basin Plan: water recovery must be done in a way that supports strong Basin communities and productive industries.

“I am finalising who will undertake the analysis, in consultation with Basin states.

The analysis will be conducted by relevant experts who are independent from government. 

“The study will take into account information arising from the Murray–Darling Basin Authority's evaluation of Basin Plan impacts and any other relevant information, and will report in December 2017.

“Together with the MDBA evaluation, this will provide Ministers with a comprehensive set of information on the cumulative socio-economic impacts of the Basin Plan, including the recovery of the 450 GL through efficiency measures.

“The delivery of the Basin Plan requires the cooperation of all jurisdictions, which is why this work is being carried out with the agreement of the whole Ministerial Council. 

“Communities across the Basin want transparency and certainty. This work is an important step in having the Plan delivered and allowing Basin communities to look to the future with confidence.”

​Terms of reference for the review of socio-economic impacts of efficiency measures are at agriculture.gov.au/water/mdb/programmes

  • In the Southern Murray–Darling Basin, the SDL adjustment mechanism provides an opportunity to change the amount of water that can be taken for productive use—through supply measures to use environmental water more effectively (sometimes referred to as 650 GL ‘down-water’) and efficiency measures to use irrigation water more efficiently (referred to as 450 GL ‘upwater’).
  • Through an agreed package of supply measures under the SDL adjustment mechanism, Basin governments are seeking to offset the full remaining water recovery gap in the southern Basin, and have identified a credible pathway to achieving this aim.
  • The Murray–Darling Basin is home to more than 2 million people, and generates agricultural production worth more than $20 billion each year, almost $7 billion of which is from irrigated production.