​Media Release

Report into Murray Darling water efficiency measures

19 January 2018

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud, has today called for a renewed commitment to the Basin Plan after the release of the Ernst and Young (EY) study into efficiency measures.

Commissioned by the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council last year, the more than 300 page report by EY follows four months of extensive community and stakeholder consultations across the Basin.

Minister Littleproud said the report drew on other studies on the social and economic impacts of water efficiency measures, including the effects of off- and on-farm water infrastructure investment and water recovery programs.

"The EY study clearly acknowledges governments need to work with communities, irrigators and industry sectors to ensure that efficiency measures have neutral or positive social and economic outcomes—this is critical to better understanding the impacts of water efficiency measures," Minister Littleproud said.

"All Basin governments agreed to the plan, and I believe this report provides us with a pathway to delivering it. It identifies a range of off-farm and urban water efficiency measures which can safely deliver some water savings without negative social or economic impacts.

"I am keen to work with Basin states to begin implementing many of these efficiency measures within the next few months. We can lay out the pathway to do this when the Ministerial Council meets in April this year.

"I will not play politics with this. Political fighting creates uncertainty which affects the lives of real people.

"I've sat around farmers' kitchen tables and seen the strain in their eyes caused by uncertainty. The tiredness caused by working long hours and not knowing what's around the corner. What farmers, rural businesses and communities need most is certainty and to see that we are nearing the light at the end of the tunnel."

The report also acknowledges that more work needs to be done to better understand and monitor the impacts of water efficiency measures.

"The EY study gives us a reference point for a frank, respectful and constructive discussion on efficiency measures and to get cracking on savings which can be made now without social or economic impacts," Minister Littleproud said.

"We have all agreed to the Basin Plan. It is important we all act maturely and treat those communities most directly affected in the Basin Plan with the respect they deserve, the respect of certainty.

"I remain committed to delivering the plan to which all Basin governments agreed, the 450 GL and delivering efficiency measures without negative social or economic impacts."

The report is published at: www.mdba.gov.au/about-us/governance/ministerial-council


Quotes from the EY report, Analysis of efficiency measures in the Murray-Darling Basin

"Off-farm and urban projects generally generate positive socio-economic impacts." (pp 18)

"Infrastructure upgrades result in enhanced water efficiency and on-farm productivity for participants. As a result there is a potential for distributional impacts to arise if participants achieve a competitive advantage through participation in the program." (pp 18)

"To address potential distributive impacts between communities and industry areas it is recommended that the on-farm program is allocated across communities and across industry areas (horticulture, cropping, dairy) so that individual communities or industries are not specifically advantaged over others." (pp 19)

"A multi-faceted program is recommended to deliver the required water within the time period. This includes: substantial early two-way engagement, intended to enable input from community and industry leaders in co-design of the programs." (pp 20)

"Immediate pursuit of off-farm and urban opportunities with zero adverse socio-economic impacts, and other immediate on-farm opportunities or programs with limited (or addressable) adverse socio-economic impacts that can meet the 62GL bridge the gap target by 2019." (p 20)

"From the analysis and discussions undertaken, and assuming the recommendations in the report are implemented, there is sufficient evidence the 450 GL can likely be recovered from water efficiency projects on a neutral or positive socio-economic basis." (pp 21)

"During consultations, irrigation infrastructure operators put forward a number of off-farm opportunities that are likely to provide savings of around 71GL." (pp 31)

"In relation to urban opportunities, there is the opportunity to achieve water savings and release urban water entitlements in a range of urban centres, however with the exception of Canberra and Adelaide this is limited in scale." (pp 31)

"Stakeholders are experiencing fatigue from multiple consultation streams and have expressed a desire to discuss Basin Plan issues on a holistic basis and for deeper two-way engagement." (pp 17)

"It is important to establish a community and industry engagement strategy for the duration of the program to create and maintain a social licence for continued water recovery. It is recommended that the primary element of this strategy be a two-way community and industry leader engagement. In addition, ongoing broader engagement with the community will also be required." (pp 221)

"There needs to be a greater focus on centrally collecting information and data specifically relating to water efficiency measures. This is required to better understand the socio-economic impacts of water efficiency measures, the economics of participation, the associated value for money implications and risks in achieving the program within the required statutory budget." (pp 17)​