Monitoring and evaluating the Basin Plan

The Basin Plan aims to promote a healthy environment, strong industries and communities, and better governance for the water resources of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Every year, we evaluate and report on the Basin Plan and how it’s tracking. This includes looking at how communities, industries, and the environment are doing, as well as how we can work better with Basin governments to implement the Basin Plan and achieve outcomes.

Evaluating how things are going can help us learn and adapt as new knowledge becomes available. Using an adaptive management framework will allow us to make better decisions and improve river management practices to achieve better outcomes. 

What are we doing as part of the 2017 evaluation?

The 2017 evaluation is another step in implementing the Basin Plan. It is an opportunity to expand on our annual reporting and take a deeper look into key areas of interest to the community. 

As part of this evaluation, we are looking at what has been achieved so far, and we will use our learnings to improve implementation into the future.

The evaluation will look into:

  • the social and economic effects from Basin Plan so far
  • the use of environmental water and environmental outcomes 
  • water recovery to bridge the gap to the new sustainable diversion limits (SDLs)
  • water quality and salinity
  • implementing the new water trade rules 
  • progress in developing new water resource plans
  • progress with other reviews such as the northern Basin review, the groundwater review, and adjusting the SDLs, and
  • any unintended consequences of the Basin Plan  

Who we're talking with?

We are using a phased approach to seek feedback on the data and methodology for our evaluation. We are seeking feedback from community members, local experts, peak stakeholder groups, the Basin Community Committee, as well as from technical experts through the Advisory Committee on Social, Economic and Environmental Sciences (ACSEES).  This approach will help ensure we get the right input for delivering a strong and robust evaluation. 

What's happening when?

timeline of the basin plan evaluation from 2017 to 2018. Early findings published in December 2017 and final analysis published in April 2018.



How are we evaluating?
Social and economic evaluation

The evaluation will look at how the social and economic conditions in the Basin have changed since the Basin Plan began, and whether this aligns with what we expected to see by now. Our analysis will improve our understanding of how much the Basin Plan contributed to the changes we are seeing.

We will be assessing:

  • social wellbeing and economic conditions in the Basin
  • water recovery programs – both water purchase and infrastructure programs, including their impact on production, water use efficiency and water markets 
  • the introduction of new water trading rules aimed at enhancing market information and reducing trade restrictions
  • the benefits of environmental watering for community well being

We will be looking at social wellbeing and economic conditions at Basin, regional and local scales. The local scale evaluation will look closely at changes in communities of differing sizes and dependence upon irrigated agriculture. It will take into account the various changes affecting each community, including the scale, timing and means of recovering water for the environment.  

Aboriginal involvement in the implementation of the Basin Plan

The Basin Plan requires Aboriginal interests to be considered in a few different areas including when evaluating risks, preparing management objectives, using environmental water, water resource planning, and monitoring and evaluation. 

Comment [GH2]: We should use the timeline that say early findings published in December. Tess do you have access to that one?

This evaluation is focusing on understanding:

  • the effectiveness to which Aboriginal perspectives on water-dependent values, uses, objectives and outcomes have been incorporated when implementing the Basin Plan
  • outcomes with regard to Traditional Owners’ interests
  • ways to improve implementation to better include Traditional Owner’s values, uses, objectives and outcomes

This type of evaluation has never been done before, which means we have no pre-existing data to draw upon. Consequently, we aim to develop an evaluation methodology that will enable consistent evaluations in the future across a multiple locations, reflecting Aboriginal socioecological diversity in the basin.  

Environmental evaluation

We will be looking at how well environmental watering programs are being implemented, and their effects, including:

  • what changes are we seeing in river flows and have these changes provided opportunities to improve the environment?
  • how have waterbirds, native fish, vegetation and important ecological sites responded to changes in the river flows provided through the Basin Plan? 
  • how might future implementation be improved?

We are using information collected by both State and Commonwealth agencies. We are ground-truthing the information with community representatives, Landcare groups, catchment management authorities, natural resource management organisations, and scientists. We have also been talking fishing clubs, bird groups, and environmental water holders.

Water quality and salinity

The Basin Plan contains water quality objectives for water-dependent ecosystems, irrigation, recreational water, general water quality, and salt export. 

The evaluation will look at:

  • progress towards meeting these objectives 
  • the contribution of the Basin Plan to water quality outcomes
  • whether there have been any unanticipated outcomes from Basin Plan implementation.
Water planning and management

Progress with accreditation of Water Resource Plans

Water resource plans are at the core of the Basin Plan, as they give effect to the new sustainable diversion limits, which come into effect from 1 July 2019. 

Our evaluation will look at how we’re progressing with WRP development and what we might improve to ensure all plans are ready by July 2019. 

Read more about WRP requirements and the accreditation process here.

Transitioning from Cap to Sustainable Diversion Limits

The new sustainable diversion limits set by the Basin Plan will come into effect in July 2019. Since the adoption of the Basin Plan in 2012, the MDBA and States have been working together to ensure

we have the right processes in place by then to measure water take and ensure it is in compliance with the Sustainable Diversion Limits for each. 

The evaluation will look at the effectiveness of the work undertaken up to 30 June 2016. This includes actions taken to date to enable effective and efficient SDL water account and compliance, and identifying ways we can improve the implementation of these arrangements.

Groundwater evaluation

We will be looking at progress with groundwater planning, including a review of the sustainable diversion limits for some areas, whether the Plan is delivering early improvements for managing groundwater, and if there are ways to better manage groundwater in the future. 

Progress with accreditation of Water Resource Plans

To give effect to the Sustainable Diversion Limits set out in the Basin Plan, States are required to submit Water Resource Plans (WRPs) for each Water Resource Plan area in their jurisdiction. The evaluation will look at:

  • progress with WRP development to date against the agreed timeframes
  • the number of accredited WRPs to date
  • identifying areas for improving the process of developing accredited WRPs