Water flows in the Murray-Darling Basin: observed versus expected - summary report

Irrigation Murray-Darling Basin Environmental monitoring Rivers Murray-Darling Basin

The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists has conducted a study to fill a gap in publicly available research that evaluates whether environmental water recovery has led to observable increases in river flows at two key sites along the Murray-Darling Basin; Chowilla and Wilcannia. These sites were chosen as they are representative of the health of the southern and northern basins respectively. This study was undertaken to assess whether recovered water is contributing to increased flows as would be expected.

This assessment found that despite 2,016 GL of water being recovered for the environment (63% of that envisaged under the Basin Plan) at a cost of $8.5 billion, and during the relatively wet period from 2010-2018:

Environmental flow targets set by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, which are required to be met to produce environmental improvements, have failed to be achieved.

In general, excluding natural flood events, annual average flows can be up to 40% to 60% smaller than expected under the Basin Plan.

In general, observed flows are similar to, or less than, the baseline (pre-Basin Plan) model results, revealing that instead of an increase there has actually been no improvement or even a decline in water flows since the implementation of the Basin Plan.

This summary document complements the technical report which includes the full methodology and analysis.

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