The Basin Plan was gazetted by the Minister for Water in November 2012. In November 2016, the first round of amendments of the Basin Plan were released for public consultation. The amendments were grouped into three categories: relating to the Northern Basin Review, relating to groundwater and other minor practical changes. The groundwater amendments focussed on baseline diversion limit (BDL) and sustainable diversion limit (SDL) changes, the compliance methodology, local management rules and adjustments to review provisions, water resource plan (WRP) area boundaries and SDL resource unit boundary definitions.
The Basin Plan requires that formal reviews be undertaken of the SDLs in three groundwater areas. This adaptive management approach ensured that the most appropriate recharge and SDL calculations were incorporated. The reviews were to be undertaken by expert review panels and found that the SDLs in these areas could be increased “once assurances have been given by the relevant state to demonstrate that the resources will be managed by state policies and plans so as to limit impacts to acceptable levels.” The Basin Plan amendments incorporate these findings.
The amendments also include a proposed change to the methodology for assessing compliance with SDLs. The proposal states that a 10-year rolling average compliance method be used for groundwater SDL resource units. Non-compliance will occur after 1 July 2028 if the average annual take over the 10 year period ending with that water year is greater than the average annual permitted take over the same period and the state does not have a reasonable excuse.
A number of other technical and administrative groundwater issues have also been identified and included in the proposed amendments. These have been requested by NSW, Vic and Qld and are aimed at ensuring alignment with state water management plans to reduce complexity and administrative burden.