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Looking ahead to 2020–21

Operating context

The sustainable management of the Murray–Darling Basin river system is a collective endeavour of the Australian and Basin state governments with river-dependent industries and communities. Water use and delivery needs are changing, affected by climate change and water availability. Implementing the Basin Plan is a way to ensure there is a balance between the water needs of all users.

To keep progress of the Plan on track, in the coming year, the MDBA will increase its focus on regulation and adaptive management. This will include monitoring and regulating compliance with accredited water resource plans and the water trading rules. Investment in research and science will be critical to support adaptive management practices and improve the transparency and accountability of decisions. Working with Basin states on the delivery of all sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism projects must also continue.

The Australian Government is committed to delivering the highest accountability for water use by strengthening compliance and establishing a statutory Inspector-General of Water Compliance. This will require a future transfer of compliance functions from the MDBA to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. The MDBA will continue to undertake compliance activities in 2020–21, while supporting the eventual transition of this role to IGWC.

The coming year will also see a continuation of the expanded regional footprint. Importantly, this will also allow the MDBA to develop a greater understanding of stakeholder concerns, improve relationships and enhance its regional water management connections. Effective engagement is an ongoing core capability for the organisation.

For 2020–21, the MDBA and Commonwealth Environmental Water Office have drawn on Traditional Owner knowledge to develop the year’s priorities. First Nations environmental watering priorities have been acknowledged and included. The focus for environmental water holders, planners, managers and river operators will be on avoiding permanent loss of species and ecosystems, providing drought refuges for animals and fish where possible, and supporting breeding events where they occur naturally.


The MDBA’s key roles for 2020–21 are to:

  • prepare, implement and review an integrated plan for the sustainable use of the Basin’s water
  • operate the River Murray system and efficiently deliver water to users on behalf of partner governments
  • measure, monitor and record the quality and quantity of the Basin’s water resources
  • support, encourage and conduct research and investigations about the Basin’s water resources and dependent ecosystems
  • advise the Australian Government Minister for Water Resources on the accreditation of state water resource plans
  • provide water rights information to facilitate water trading across the Basin
  • engage and educate the Basin stakeholders about the Basin’s water resources.

Key actions for the year will include:

  • driving the Basin Plan with a greater role on regulation and adaptive management
  • commencing application of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Reporting and Compliance Framework and completing the transition reporting
  • completing the review of the Basin Watering Strategy
  • completing and publishing the Basin Plan 2020 evaluation
  • continuing to invest in research and science to support ongoing adaptive management practices
  • continuing to improve the transparency and accountability of decisions
  • focusing the environmental watering priorities on protecting the habits of the Basin’s animals and improving the environmental health of the river system
  • expanding the regional footprint further.

Further details of the priorities and key activities are found in the MDBA Corporate Plan 2020–21 Corporate Plan | Murray-Darling Basin Authority (mdba.gov.au)