Progress towards meeting environmental needs under the Basin Plan

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment publishes quarterly updates on the progress of environmental water recovery to improve the health of the river system under the Murray–Darling Basin Plan (Basin Plan).

Under the Basin Plan there are two overarching water recovery targets: Bridging the Gap for surface and groundwater, and Efficiency Measures for surface water only. All volumes reported on this page are expressed in gigalitres per year long term average yield, with the shorthand GL/y used for clarity.

Current recoveries are as at 30 June 2021

‘Bridging the Gap’ water recovery

The Basin Plan sets a local water recovery target for each Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL) resource unit area along with shared water recovery targets for SDL resource units within a zone. The recovery target must be met by recovering water from within the SDL resource unit and must be fully recovered to successfully ‘bridge the gap’. Gap bridging recovery includes Commonwealth and state water recoveries.

For surface water the bridging the gap recovery target for the entire Murray‑Darling Basin is 2,075 GL/y, assuming access to the full volume of supply measures (as further discussed below), with around 2% of the target remaining.

For groundwater the gap bridging recovery target is 38.5 GL/y, with around 8% remaining.

Surface water recovery

Water recovery tables are published with summaries below.

The data consists of factors in accredited Water Resource Plans (WRPs) and updated factors issued by NSW which are not yet accredited. The data provides an indicative view of the volume of water recovered once all WRPs are accredited.

   Target Water Recovery Progress Water Recovery Remaining
Murray–Darling Basin
(all units GL/y)
Local Target Shared Target Recovery towards Bridging the Gap Apportioned supply contribution Local remaining recovery task Shared remaining recovery task Remaining recovery task
Total Basin 1,668.0 1,012.0 2,106.9 605.0 31.1 14.9 46.0

All water recovery figures are expressed in gigalitres per year long term average yield (GL/y) terms and rounded to the nearest decimal place.

Groundwater recovery

The Commonwealth is undertaking water recovery that aims to protect the long-term productive base of the Queensland Upper Condamine Alluvium aquifer, consistent with the groundwater sustainable diversion limits set by the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.

SDL resource unit (all units GL/y) Local target SDL reduction Shared target SDL reduction Total recovery progress Total recovery remaining
Upper Condamine Alluvium 35.40 N/A 35.15 0.25
Tributaries 3.05 N/A 0.10 2.95

All water recovery figures are expressed in gigalitres per year long term average yield (GL/y) terms and rounded to the nearest decimal place. Groundwater recovery does not contribute to the surface water recovery target.

Efficiency measures water recovery

Efficiency measures are activities that change water use practices and save water. The Basin Plan sets a target for efficiency measures recovery of up to an additional 450 GL/y to further enhance the environmental outcomes that can be achieved under the Basin Plan.

Murray–Darling Basin
(all units in GL/y)
Target Total Water Recovery registered to the CEWH Total Contracted Water Recovery (including registered volume) Recovery remaining (registered)
Total Basin 450.0 1.9 18.4 448.1

All water recovery figures are expressed in gigalitres per year long term average annual yield (GL/y) terms and rounded to nearest decimal place.

Further information

Water recovery factors

There are over 150 different types of water entitlement within the Murray–Darling Basin. Water recovery factors are an accounting tool that enable different types of entitlement to be counted on equal terms to track the volumes of water that have been recovered, in a way that is consistent and accurate across the Basin. They are used to determine the amount of water recovered against recovery targets in each SDL resource unit, as required under the Basin Plan. These factors are also known as long-term diversion limit equivalent factors.

All water recovery volumes are expressed in gigalitres per year long term average annual yield (GL/y) terms. Basin states have been updating planning assumptions and calculation methods incorporating the most recent information including how much water has been recovered for the environment, historical water patterns, climatic data and trade information. The process has resulted in some changes to the remaining gap bridging water recovery volumes. The update will be complete when all cap factors are revised, and state WRPs are accredited by the Minister.

Data is shown with updated factors consistent with accredited WRPs or is shown with updated factors for New South Wales.
Basin state reports on the determination of long-term diversion limit factor can be found at:

SDL resource unit shared reduction targets

The shared reduction amount for an SDL resource unit is determined as described in s6.05 of the Basin Plan. The Basin Plan allowed Basin states to request a redistribution of shared reduction amounts. Valid shared reduction requests were received from Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. These requests were applied following agreement by the MDBA and the department on 12 March 2019.

Impact of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism on gap bridging recovery

The SDLAM amendment instrument commenced in law on the 13 January 2018 and applies to surface water SDL resource units only.

As set out in the Basin Plan, the SDLAM adds flexibility to the SDLs by allowing equivalent environmental outcomes of the Basin Plan to be achieved through more efficient use of environmental water (Supply Measures) and further environmental outcomes to those agreed in the Basin Plan that achieve neutral or improved socio-economic outcomes through improvements to irrigation efficiency (Efficiency Measures).

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) assessment of the package of supply measures nominated by state governments, allows the SDLs in the southern Murray-Darling Basin to be adjusted upwards by 605 GL/y, reducing environmental water recovery by this amount across the southern Basin.

Efficiency measures contribution to the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism

The SDLAM includes a rule limiting the range of change for the Basin-wide SDL to net ±5%. This means that at least 62 GL/y must be recovered through efficiency measures for the full 605 GL/y supply contribution to be available. This 62 GL/y ‘Efficiency Contribution’ is a subset of the larger 450 GL/y target.

It is important to note that that, individual SDL resource units may increase or decrease by greater than 5%, as long as the net Basin-wide SDL remains within the range.

Murray-Darling Basin
(all units in GL/y)
Target Total Water Recovery registered to the CEWH Total Contracted Water Recovery (including registered volume) Recovery remaining (registered)
Total Basin 62.0 1.9 18.4 60.1

All water recovery figures are expressed in gigalitres per year long term average yield (GL/y) terms and rounded to nearest decimal place.

Links

The following links provide further information on water recovery:

More on environmental water recovery is available at:

Last reviewed: 30 July 2021
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