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About the Murray–Darling Basin Authority


To achieve a healthy working Basin through integrated management of water resources for the long-term benefit of the Australian community


The Murray–Darling Basin Authority is an Australian Government agency established to provide independent, expert advice on the development, implementation and enforcement of the Basin Plan. The MDBA operates under the authority of the Commonwealth Water Act 2007 (the Water Act) (link).

The MDBA delivers its functions under the Murray– Darling Basin Agreement (Schedule 1 of the Water Act) in conjunction with, and on behalf of, the Basin governments.

Most of the MDBA’s operations are governed by the Water Act and the Basin Plan 2012—a legislative instrument made under Part 2 of the Water Act.

In 2013, the Intergovernmental Agreement on Implementing Water Reform in the Murray Darling Basin (the IGA) came into effect, building on the 2008 Intergovernmental Agreement and supporting the objectives of the Basin Plan Intergovernmental Agreement on Implementing Water Reform in the Murray Darling Basin | Council of Australian Governments (coag.gov.au). The most recent amendment to the IGA was in August 2019 when Basin leaders endorsed measures to improve environmental outcomes in the northern Basin.

Portfolio and ministers

The MDBA is in the Agriculture, Water and Environment portfolio, reporting to the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, the Hon. Keith Pitt MP.

From 1 July 2019 to 1 February 2020, the MDBA was part of the Agriculture and Water Resources portfolio reporting to Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management, the Hon. David Littleproud MP.


The MDBA’s key roles are to:

  • drive the implementation of the Basin Plan
  • run the river—operate the River Murray system and efficiently deliver water to users on behalf of partner governments.

The MDBA’s regulatory function of ensuring there is compliance with the requirements and regulatory responsibilities as specified in the Water Act and the Basin Plan is a core component of supporting the implementation of the Basin Plan.

Figure 1.3 shows what is involved in these roles.

Figure 1.3 MDBA roles and responsibilities Water resource plans. Water resource plans set local rules for water and outline how each region aims to achieve community, environmental, economic and cultural outcomes. MDBA assesses and recommends for accreditation Basin states develop and implement Compliance. An effective and fair compliance system will underpin the integrity of environmental water, water resource plans, water markets and water entitlements. MDBA monitors and enforces Basin-scale compliance. Basin states. implement and enforce compliance locally Water markets and trade Water in the Murray–Darling Basin can be bought or sold permanently or temporarily. MDBA role is to provide information and enforce compliance. Basin states implement the rules, including allocating water Australian Competition and Consumer Commission provides advice on rules and complaints. Recovering water. Under the Basin Plan, water is recovered and retained in the system to keep rivers, lakes and wetlands healthy. Basin states implement some efficiency programs. The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment undertakes strategic purchases and efficiency programs. Water for the environment. Water for the environment is used to improve the health of our rivers, wetlands and floodplains. MDBA plans, coordinates and prioritises at a Basin scale Basin states plan and implement at a local level. Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder plans and implements across the Basin. Monitoring and evaluation. Monitoring, evaluating and reporting are critical to ensuring the way water is managed works and is on track. MDBA evaluates and monitors the Basin Plan. Basin states report and monitor at a local level. Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment monitors water recovery program. Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder monitors and reports results of water for the environment. Sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism. The sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism involves a suite of projects that are being developed to ensure water delivery systems are more effective and water losses are reduced. MDBA coordinates, assesses and monitors projects. Basin states propose, design and implement projects. Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment funds and implements projects. River Murray operations. Infrastructure such as dams and levees are developed, maintained and operated to store water and allow flows to occur. MDBA operates and manages the River Murray Basin states undertake day-to-day management of dams, locks, weirs and barrages


The MDBA relies on collaborations and interdependencies to carry out its work. Figure 1.4 shows the range of government, community, Traditional Owners, industry and research organisations involved. The following are examples of some of the collaborations and interdependencies:

  • The MDBA works with the Basin governments to coordinate work programs and oversee the implementation of the Basin Plan. Basin governments are signatories to the Murray–Darling Basin Agreement and contribute funding to the joint management of the River Murray.
  • Basin communities are involved in managing the Basin through advisory groups and other committees. The MDBA Regional Engagement Officers (REOs) play an important role in community engagement.
  • The MDBA engages with Aboriginal First Nations to ensure their perspectives are considered in the Basin Plan, particularly on cultural values and water uses. There are over 40 Aboriginal Nations in the Basin. The MDBA provides support to the Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations and the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations.
  • Other Australian Government agencies, including the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO), the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), also have roles under the Water Act.

Figure 1.4 MDBA collaborations and interdependencies Pie chart depicting MDBA collaborations and interdependencies as per dot points in text..


MDBA staff are now located in Adelaide, Albury–Wodonga, Canberra, Goondiwindi, Griffith, Mildura, Murray Bridge and Toowoomba. At 30 June, MDBA had 51 staff and 6 REOs in regional locations.

Staff and values

The MDBA is committed to creating an organisation that delivers effective solutions for the Basin in an efficient and cost-effective manner. We build our capability through our values, our people, processes and systems, and collaboration.

Source: MDBA Corporate Plan 2019-20 (link)

At 30 June 2020 the MDBA had 264 ongoing staff and 25 non-ongoing staff guided by the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct
 committed, connected and collaborative. Respectful and rewarding. engaging and encouraging. Agile and adaptable. Trusted. Experts.