NSW still lagging with key water compliance measure
The annual statement of compliance for Sustainable Diversion Limits (SDLs) has been released, and half of all SDL resource units still are not operational, as New South Wales continues to delay providing all Water Resource Plans (WRPs) to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA). Inspector-General of Water Compliance (IGWC), the Honourable Troy Grant says he’s pleased to see that 55 SDL resource units are compliant against the registers of take but says 54 areas in NSW are still not subject to SDL compliance under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan due to the absence of accredited WRPs.
"SDL compliance is essential to the implementation and operation of the Basin Plan. By having a working SDL in place, it ensures the amount of water that can be taken from rivers and aquifers for towns, industry and farmers is fair and sustainable. It is up to the NSW state government to ensure WRPs, are submitted soon, otherwise they are failing the environment, individual water users and the broader community across not only NSW, but the entire Basin,” said Inspector-General Troy Grant.
The Basin Plan requires that once a WRP is accredited and operational, the SDL cumulative balance is set to zero. This means that any exceedance or credits in NSW will disappear when the state government does have operational WRPs. Mr Grant says his team had a useful conversations with the NSW Water Minister, who assures him that more WRPs will be submitted to the MDBA soon. "I want to be clear: this situation is not a reflection on individual NSW water users or their level of compliance with their water take rules. This issue reflects a lack of Water Resource Plans in NSW that consider the collective consumptive use across a whole SDL resource unit," said Mr Grant.
While NSW is yet to submit most of its WRPs, the other states and territories have been operating under their WRPs, with no significant SDL exceedance. “This is an important milestone for the Basin Plan. For the first time ever under the Basin Plan, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and the ACT all have accredited water resource plans in place and all operated within compliance of sustainable water take limits for the 2020-21 year" said Mr Grant.
The Annual SDL Compliance Statement is a commitment of the IGWC, to improve trust and transparency in the implementation of the Basin’s water reform agenda. To deliver on this commitment, the IGWC also carries out assessments, audits and investigations into enforcement frameworks in each state. So far, the Inspector-General has found there are inconsistencies between the states and territories that can be improved to support Basin Plan compliance.
"I want the community to feel assured my office is providing independent oversight and monitoring of compliance across the entire Murray Darling Basin, which is why all of our audits and reports of findings are published on the IGWC’s website, including the SDL Compliance Statement," said Mr Grant.