Robust water accounting and compliance in any groundwater system ensures that the volume of water actually taken does not exceed the volume of water that is permitted to be taken. This protects investment by governments, corporations and individuals and increases certainty and security for all water uses.
The Murray–Darling Basin Plan (Basin Plan), adopted in November 2012, represents a significant milestone in groundwater management in Australia. It is the first time that a limit of 3,334 GL/y on groundwater use has been established across the Basin. This limit is expressed through the application of sustainable diversion limits (SDLs). The Basin Plan prescribes 22 water resource plan areas and 81 SDL resource units relating to groundwater. Each SDL resource unit has a separate SDL to which the states must manage extraction.
Because the Basin Plan has not yet been fully implemented, groundwater use accounting and compliance in the MDB is in transition. To support compliance with the SDLs after 2019, section 71 of the Water Act 2007 (Cwlth) establishes new groundwater use reporting requirements. Basin states and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) are now required to undertake monitoring and reporting of annual water availability and use in accordance with these arrangements.
Given requirements for reporting against all forms of groundwater take, the Authority and Basin states have identified the transition period as an important opportunity to establish and agree, trial arrangements for calculating and reporting actual and permitted take in ways that will support SDL compliance from the 2019/20 water year onward. This will help to ensure that there is continued confidence in the security of water entitlements and the effective operation of water sharing arrangements and trade through the water market.