The release of the Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL) compliance statement for 2020-2021 highlights a trend of consumptive water being underused in 98% of the SDL resource units across the Murray Darling Basin.
Shadow Water Minister, Perin Davey said repeated underuse by water users across the Basin shows that water users are already complying with the Sustainable Diversion Limit caps imposed by the Basin Plan even before it has been finalised.
Senator Davey said the issue of underuse is a continuing trend, yet the Murray Darling Basin Authority and now the new Inspector-General for Water Compliance, have not explained why 107 out of the 109 SDL units across the Basin underuse is so prevalent.
“It is vital that users and communities across the Basin have a better understanding of what is driving this underuse of consumptive water across the Basin and how it can be rectified,” she said.
“Many are asking why water users aren’t using all allowable extractions even in years of 100% allocations.
“On the flip-side, we also need an explanation from both the Inspector General and the two State Governments in South Australia and New South Wales as to why the two SDL Resource units in the South Australian (Murray) and the New South Wales Barwon-Darling recorded an SDL exceedance.”
Senator Davey said it was important to note that the Inspector General’s report makes it clear that the report ‘… is not a reflection on any individual water users or their level of individual water licence compliance.
“This report again highlights that the Basin Plan outcomes, whether they are social, economic or environmental, are about more than numbers on a spreadsheet.
“The trend towards underuse indicates water users behaviour has changed.
“This compliance with SDLs and the fact that even during the 2017-20 drought years the flow to South Australia exceeded their entitlement flows and the Coorong remained connected to the Lower Lakes shows that we have come a long way in the 10 years since the Basin Plan was adopted.
“SDL compliance should give us the opportunity to focus on how best to achieve the environmental outcomes envisaged rather than continuing to focus on water recovery.
“What we need now is for the submitted New South Wales Water Resource Plans to be accredited so they can get the rest done in time for the next compliance report.