A History of management measures related to the Murray-Darling Basin water resource

12 Feb

By David Holland

I would like to focus on the initiatives of the Federal government during the 1990’s and into the new century. This was the period when the Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council, later to become the Murray-Darling Basin Commission launched the Natural Resource Management Strategy (NRMS). (Connell 2007)

This was the first time in the long history of managing the basin that Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory were consulted in an attempt to better manage the resources in the basin. This initiative was in the backdrop of newly developed Integrated Catchment Management principals (ICM) which for the first time acknowledged the sensitivity of the natural environment when developing economic uses of water for agriculture and power generation in the MDB catchment. (Dovers 2007)

Before this Initiative salinity and land management practices were the main issues.

Much of the salinity problems that had arisen at the beginning of last century were overcome by large infrastructure investments for navigation, power and irrigation such as the Hume Weir in 1933 and the lower river lock system. (Connell 2007)

In NSW under the new Water Act 2000 the state started to implement water sharing plans developed for each river and ground water system in NSW. The Murray and lower Darling was just one of them, however this river system had an over committed water resource. The aim of this program was to ensure all rivers in NSW had some environmental flow. Any water sharing of this system needed to include not only environmental flow but a South Australian and Victorian allocation of water.

It wasn’t until the period when the Howard government establishing the Murray-Darling Basin Authority in 2007 and provided funding to purchase water allocations for environment flow through the Commonwealth Environment Water Holder (CEWH) scheme that the MDB turned a corner for the environment. (Crowley 2012) However people concerned about river health still criticise the Murray-Darling Basin plan 2012. (South Australian Government 2012)(Phillips 2012)


Carla Mooneya , Poh-Ling Tanb, (2012), South Australia’s River Murray: Social and cultural values in water planning, Journal of Hydrology, Volume 474, 12 December 2012, Pages 29–37, Water Planning in Australia: meeting the challenges of incorporating social, cultural and scientific information into decision-making, http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0022169412002739 (cited March 2016)

Connell, Daniel, 2007, Water Politics in the Murray- Darling Basin, Federation Press.

Colman W., (2009), Australian National University, Two Decades of Murray-Darling Water Management: A River of Funding, a Trickle of Achievement, Agenda, Vol. 16, Number 1 Press release, http://press.anu.edu.au/agenda/016/01/mobile_devices/ch01s03.html (cited 2 April 2016)

Crowley, Kate; Walker K J; (2012), Environmental Policy failure, The Australian Story, Tilde Publishing and Distribution,  pp. 74-87.

CSIRO Land and Water / Charles Sturt University, Published Water the good stuff,http://www.water.org.au/pubs/pub04_bowmer.htm, (cited March 2016)

Dovers Stephen, Rivers Su Wild (editors) (2003), Managing Australia’s Environment, The Federation press, pp. 236- 253, 393-411.

Kathleen Bowmer,(2004), Look after the Land and the Rivers: Reflections on Water Sharing,


Murray Darling Basin Commission, (2002), Environmental Challengers in the Murray- Darling Basin, Printed Material in the Murray-Darling Basin Initiative.

Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council, (Sept 2000), Draft Integrated Catchment Management in the Murray-Darling Basin.

NSW Government, (2003), Water Sharing Plan for the New South Wales Murray and Lower Darling Regulated Rivers Water Sources 2003, NSW legislation, http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/viewtop/inforce/subordleg+186+2003+FIRST+0+N/ (cited2  April 2016)

NSW Department of Infrastructure Planning and natural resources,(Sept 2004), A guide to the Water Sharing Plan for the New South Wales Murray and Lower Darling Regulated Rivers Water Sources, NSW Government, http://www.water.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/547692/murrayreg-guide.pdf

Phillips, Sara ,May 2012, Murray-Darling Plan reflects the failure of the government, ABC Environment, http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2012/05/31/3514567.htm, (cited 2 April 2016)

Quiggin, JohnChambers, Sarah;Mallawaarachchi, Thilak, Water Policy Reform : Lessons in Sustainability from the Murray Darling Basin, Edward Elgar Publishing, http://reader.eblib.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/(S(radepoiycscgzbj3xcbimax2))/Reader.aspx?p=881401&o=476&u=hSuhCa8BIa8%3d&t=1459082398&h=62224971D99C659252DB9831324D7CC8EA166335&s=43446336&ut=1443&pg=1&r=img&c=-1&pat=n&cms=-1&sd=2, (cited March 2016)

South Australian Government, 16 April 2012, South Australian Government response to the Draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan, Link At South Australian Government Submission on the Murray …, (cited 2 April 2016)

Schliebs, Mark.(2012), Greens will block revised Murray-Darling water plan, The Australian , [Canberra, A.C.T] 10 Aug 2012: 6, http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/docview/1032770732?OpenUrlRefId=info:xri/sid:primo&accountid=10344 (cited March 2016)

Wells, Adrian, (1995), The Murray Darling Association [Also celebrating a 50th anniversary.] [online]. Trees and Natural Resources, Vol. 37, No. 1, Mar 1995: 29-30. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/documentSummary;dn=950605997;res=IELAPAISSN: 0814-4680. [cited 27 Mar 16].












Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: