The Water for the Environment Special Account (WESA) was established to fund efficiency and constraints measures to recover an additional 450GL under the Murray Darling Basin Plan (Basin Plan). Water recovery was to be achieved through both on-farm and off-farm efficiency measures. To date, just 2.1GL of the 450GL has been recovered while $68.1 million has been expended from the WESA.

An independent review of the WESA found that under no circumstances will the required 450GL be recovered by 2024 and concluded only 60GL could feasibly be recovered. Under this scenario, just 13% of the water will be returned to the environment by the deadline.

Years of inaction on water recovery from Basin states and a federal government not willing to enforce action has resulted in a Basin Plan that is currently failing the environment. It now appears that money earmarked for the recovery of environmental water is at risk of flowing to a range of infrastructure projects with questionable or no prospect for genuine water recovery within NSW irrigation districts.

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