Why are you doing a northern basin review?

    We are undertaking a review of the limits on water that can be taken for agriculture in a couple of the regions of the Northern Basin.

    The Basin Plan outlines how water will be managed in the Basin, by all water users, to achieve a healthy balance for future generations.

    To work towards achieving a healthy Basin for all who rely on it, the Basin Plan outlines how much water can be extracted and how much needs to stay in the system to ensure it flourishes.

    When the Basin Plan was signed off in 2012, the MDBA saw that more work in the north was needed, to try and improve the social and economic outcomes for all rural communities involved.

    When the Basin Plan was introduced, water users in the northern Basin were extracting 3,858 GL per year. The Basin Plan sets the limit for consumptive use in the north at 3,468 GL — this means 390 GL less for consumptive use on average per year. This limit is the main focus of the review.

    This is about making sure the river can continue to provide for the needs of communities into the future by managing it sustainably now.

    What are you trying to achieve through the review?

    Through the northern Basin review, we are trying to achieve the best possible balance between social, economic and environmental outcomes in the northern Basin.

    The expected outcomes of the review are:

    • improved information on achieving environmental outcomes and social and economic costs and benefits for different diversion limits
    • recommendations about possible improvements to Basin Plan settings in the northern Basin
    • advice on how best to recover the remaining target for environmental water.

    The review explores three themes of the work program, environmental science, social and economic assessments and water recovery modelling.

    What extra information have you been looking at?

    The Review comprises of several projects to gain the important information needed.

    An environmental science program, social and economic assessment and updated and refined water recovery modelling project is underway to better understand the impacts of different proposals to rebalance water use.

    » Environmental science program — will help better understand the needs of birds, fish and plants in the Barwon–Darling and Condamine–Balonne river systems. It includes new research and review of the most current knowledge on ecological responses to flows. This is helping fill in knowledge gaps about the environmental water needed, to see if environmental outcomes can be delivered, using less water.

    » Social and Economic assessment — will look at how recovering water from different parts of the river system is likely to affect communities and industries. This will involve an assessment on irrigated agriculture and rural towns.

    » Updated water recovery modelling — this will involve hydrological modelling to get a better understanding of what the effects are when water is recovered from different parts of the river.

    We expect to finish this research and investigation, the first of four phases, by the early 2016.

    For the next phases, we will use the information, consult with northern communities and governments and do more analysis on the best final settings to put forward for the Basin Plan.

    Where can I find out more information about the review?

    You can find further information about the review and the projects helping with the review decision on the MDBA website (http://www.mdba.gov.au/about-basin/northern-basin/northern-basin-work-program/NB-review)

    Who have you been working with so far with the northern basin review?

    Where we are today is not the starting point of the review. Over the past couple of years a great number of people have been helping us strengthen our knowledge of the river systems in the northern Basin and the communities that rely of them.

    Local people, state agencies and university researchers have contributed their time and expertise. We've also been working closely with the Northern Basin Advisory Committee, which is made up of people from a number of northern basin communities. You can read more about some of the work we have been doing with NBAC on our website www.mdba.gov.au/about-us/governance/nbac/engagement.

    An Intergovernmental Working Group has also been set up comprising of both Queensland and NSW government representatives.

    We will continue to seek expert information as the review continues and encourages local involvement.

    How can I be involved?

    We are currently sharing the results of the northern Basin review projects with the community. We are keen to hear if our research findings resonate with local communities, and what people think about the water recovery scenarios we have investigated. The locations, times and dates for community drop-in sessions can be found here.

    We will share up-to-date information on what we are hearing in different communities and provide a place for these conversations to continue online. This online space will also provide other opportunities for you to find out more information and to talk with other interested people. Feel free to join in a conversation, or just watch them.

    What will you do with my input?

    All of the contributions made within this portal will be consolidated into a consultation report. This report will collate themes and issues and will be given to the Authority (the MDBA board) to help them decide whether or not the Basin Plan should be amended.

    This report will be made publically available so you can see how your views have been reflected.

    How will the Authority consider all the information?

    Deciding how much water to keep in the rivers is a complex task. For the Authority to make informed recommendations to Basin ministers, they have to consider multiple, sometimes competing objectives, and the views of the many different stakeholders throughout the Basin. The Authority must also consider all the new information available in order to balance environmental needs with the effects of water recovery on northern communities. 

    Over the past six months, we have been developing a framework to assist the Authority with making their recommendations to Basin ministers. This framework will help them understand how different water recovery scenarios perform on social, economic and environmental levels and help them understand the trade-offs with each scenario.

    After this current consultation work, the Authority will use the framework to bring together and assess all the new information gathered as a part of the review, including stakeholder views.