Water Matters - Issue 54, April 2021

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Round 3 Murray-Darling Basin Economic Development Program Grants just closed


Warren Shire’s newly built skate park funded by the MDBEDP

The largest funding round made available to Basin communities under the Murray–Darling Basin Economic Development Program has just closed.
Round 3 of the program is providing $34 million for projects in 38 local government areas.
The program supports economic development projects in communities affected by water recovery under the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.
The program is a key part of the Murray-Darling Communities Investment Package and will continue to help:

  • develop local economies
  • increase job opportunities
  • enhance community resilience during economic challenges.

In New South Wales, the Warren Shire Council was granted funding through the program for a range of activities aimed at improving the lifestyle and amenities for locals and tourists.

The newly built skate park in Warren is encouraging an active youth community. More infrastructure projects are also underway.

In Queensland, the Balonne Shire installed 2 digital connectivity towers under the program to provide better internet connection in the area. The towers are expected to go live in April 2021.

Applications for round 3 funding closed on Monday, 12 April 2021. For more information, head to the Murray-Darling Basin Economic Development Program.

Off-Farm Efficiency Program delivering certainty for communities


Local contractors using 7 cubic metre truck to deliver concrete to LVBC re-lining sites.

The Australian Government is directing investment towards off-farm water infrastructure projects to help recover water for the environment. The new Off-Farm Efficiency Program is a $1.54 billion commitment designed to recover water for the environment through job-creating projects that protect and deliver certainty for farming and irrigation communities in the Murray–Darling Basin.

Projects funded under the new program will improve the efficiency of off-farm irrigation infrastructure.

The new Off-Farm Water Efficiency program, announced by the Minister 3 March 2021 will be funded through the Water for the Environment Special Account across multiple components:

  • $1.33 billion for state-led projects to modernise irrigation infrastructure networks
  • $150 million available for Commonwealth direct grants for off-farm water savings projects

In addition, $60 million has been made available for states that wish to pursue limited on-farm water efficiency to do so in line with the strict social and economic neutrality test set by the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council.

The Australian Government has entered into an agreement for $177.5 million with Victoria for the Goulburn-Murray Water- Water Efficiency Project, to modernise and upgrade infrastructure across that network.

As part of a stocktake across the Basin, a raft of potential off-farm projects has been identified to address water losses, provide regional stimulus and contribute to agricultural productivity. The Australian Government is actively engaging with Basin states to get the new arrangements in place for potential project proponents.

Funding for the Commonwealth-led grants component is expected to be available in the middle of 2021. Further information can be found at Off-Farm Efficiency Program.

Transparency in delivering the Murray-Darling Basin Plan


Murray–Darling Communities Investment Package - now available.

The first public report on implementing the Murray–Darling Communities Investment Package is now available. The report demonstrates strong progress towards putting communities and economic activity at the heart of the Basin Plan.

The report shows how the $270 million investment is delivering practical support to Basin communities through on-ground environmental projects and other initiatives that drive economic activity.

The Communities Investment Package centres around three key themes:

  • investing in communities
  • building trust
  • improving implementation

All themes deliver on the Government’s promise to put communities at the heart of the Basin Plan, and to do that without taking additional water out of communities by ending water buybacks.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment will report on the Communities Investment Package three times a year. View the Murray-Darling Communities Investment Package: First report into implementation - March 2021.

ACCC’s Murray–Darling Basin water markets inquiry release


Murray–Darling Basin water markets inquiry

The report is a comprehensive investigation into the governance, architecture and operation of Murray–Darling Basin water markets.

Developed using extensive research and community input over an 18-month period, the report includes 29 wide-ranging recommendations on:

  • market integrity and conduct
  • trade processing and water market information
  • market architecture
  • governance of Basin water markets.

The ACCC report highlights the importance of ensuring water markets work effectively and are underpinned by good information quality and access, rules and governance, and trading behaviours and processes.

Our focus over the coming months will be on engaging with Basin states and stakeholders to develop a response that supports water users and communities and to ensure any reforms are feasible and cost-effective.

The report is available on the ACCC website. We encourage people to consider the report and its recommendations. The ACCC is also five holding workshops across the southern Murray-Darling Basin.



Times / dates


Benetook Room, Alfred Deakin Centre, 190 Deakin Avenue, Mildura, VIC

1 pm, Monday 19 April


Renmark Club, 160 Murray Avenue, Renmark, SA

10 am, Tuesday 20 April


Griffith Exies Club, 6-12 Jondaryan Avenue, Griffith, NSW

2 pm, Tuesday 27 April


Dunlop Room, Deniliquin RSL Club, 72 End Street, Deniliquin, NSW

1.30 pm, Wednesday 28 April


Shepparton Golf Club, 15 Golf Drive, Shepparton, VIC

10 am, Thursday 29 April

Registration for the forums is now open at: Murray-Darling Basin inquiry - April 2021 public forums registrations.

Learning with locals


Turtle research is being undertaken in collaboration with Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre.

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) is providing funding to scientists to work with Traditional Owners in the Murray–Darling Basin to use traditional knowledge to inform how water for the environment can benefit rivers and wetlands.

Over the summer of 2019-20, Charles Sturt University teamed up with the Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre to find out how flows of environmental water impact turtle movement and condition. To discover more about turtle behavior, the research team trapped, handled and monitored turtle populations in 6 wetlands along the Edward/Kolety-Wakool river system near Deniliquin, NSW.

Liticia Ross, from the Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre got involved in the project as she wanted to be out on Country and was interested to see what goes into turtle monitoring.

As a result of the project, local community members learnt new skills. ‘I learnt how to measure and record turtles. They can travel a fair distance and move fast,’ Tracy Hamilton said.

In total, 143 broad-shelled turtles, 139 eastern long-necked turtles, and 209 Murray River turtles were monitored.
The local knowledge and experience of the Yarkuwa fieldworkers has driven the project’s success, while providing an opportunity to learn new skills and share knowledge now and into the future.

For more information on this project go to the CEWO's on-ground science program.

Ten Northern Basin Toolkit projects approved

The Australian Government is working with NSW and Queensland governments to implement environmental works and measures identified in the Northern Basin Review, collectively known as the ‘Northern Basin Toolkit.

The Hon. Keith Pitt MP, Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, announced the ten projects that would be eligible for funding under the Northern Basin Toolkit on March 25, 2021. In partnership with the governments of NSW and QLD, the Australian Government will invest up to $180 million before 2024. This will be used to support projects aimed at enhancing the Northern Basin's environmental outcomes.

These projects also support an additional 70 GL of water being kept in productive use in the Northern Basin and provide a much-needed economic stimulus to communities in the region.

The Government’s decision is consistent with the advice of an expert advisory panel who assessed 26 proposals from NSW and Queensland ranked them in order of their ability to deliver quality ecological outcomes in the Northern Basin. The next stage is to finalise contractual arrangements with the proponents involved and commence work on the ground as soon as possible. The Government has made $90 million available immediately so that 4 of the 10 projects can be fast-tracked. On-ground activities for these 4 projects are expected to begin this year.

The four fast-tracked toolkit projects are:

  • NSW Fish for the Future: Reconnecting the Northern Basin project
  • NSW Scoping Initiative: Macquarie Marshes enhanced watering project
  • NSW Fish for the Future: Fish-friendly Water Extraction project
  • Queensland Fish-friendly Water Extraction: Condamine-Balonne and Border Rivers project.
For more information on the ten approved Northern Basin Toolkit projects, visit DAWE Northern Basin Toolkit projects toolkit or MDBA Northern Basin Projects. 
Last reviewed: 29 April 2021
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