As a first in groundwater management within the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB), the Basin Plan (2012) has introduced Basin wide limits on groundwater take. This is part of a new water accounting and compliance framework based on sustainable diversion limits (SDLs). Groundwater take is governed by local management plans set and managed by Basin State Governments across 80 SDL resource units within the MDB. Basin states report the annual permitted and annual actual take to the MDBA by 31 October each year, as required by section 71 of the Water Act (2007). This data is then used in a SDL compliance assessment which will be enforceable from 1 July 2019.
In preparation for 1 July 2019, the MDBA have developed a set of trial accounts which apply the compliance assessment process set out in the Basin Plan over the past 6 years of section 71 reported data. This has allowed the development of a wider understanding of the operation of the accounts and provided an opportunity to prepare for their formal application from 2019. Under the SDL accounting arrangements, if a potential non-compliance with the SDL is identified, the MDBA will follow the process outlined in the SDL Reporting and Compliance Framework (MDBA, 2018) to determine whether the relevant Basin State has a reasonable excuse and what any appropriate actions in response to the situation may be.
The trial groundwater accounts have been published in the annual Water Take Report (MDBA, 2019). Groundwater SDLs ensure the long-term sustainable management of groundwater at a Basin-scale, providing protection for the groundwater dependent communities and ecosystems of the Murray-Darling Basin.