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National Partnership Agreement on Implementing Water Reform in the Murray–Darling Basin: final review

Water usage Murray-Darling Basin Water conservation Water governance Water security Murray-Darling Basin

ARTD Consultants was engaged by the Federal Department of Agriculture (the Department) to undertake this final review of the National Partnership Agreement on Implementing Water Reform in the Murray-Darling Basin (the NPA).

The purpose of the NPA is to ensure that Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) water reforms, including the Murray-Darling Basin Plan (Basin Plan), are implemented in the national interest of a healthy working river system, strong communities, and sustainable food and fibre production, while providing certainty for affected communities and water users.

Key findings:

  • The NPA has helped States implement the MDB water reforms. While States have, under the 2013 Murray-Darling Basin Intergovernmental Agreement, agreed to make progress against the Basin Plan, the NPA facilitated this progress.
  • While most of the NPA reporting milestones were met over the period of the agreement, in recent years there has been a trend away from full completion of milestones towards partial completion.
  • The NPA’s effectiveness has been limited by its milestones being broadly defined and not allowing partial payments; however, this design was intentional and a product of the NPA’s context. The milestones were broadly defined to enable States to sign the agreement due to lack of clarity around the detailed implementation of Basin Plan measures during the NPA’s design phase. At the time the Commonwealth did not support the inclusion of partial payments to avoid the risk of States not fully implementing key aspects of water reform.
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