THE ACT Government has welcomed the Murray Darling Basin Plan, released today, saying the ACT will see a broadened and more secure water supply with less requirement on temporary restrictions in the coming decades.
The report proposes the ACT’s Sustainable Diversion Limits, the environmentally sustainable limit on the amount of water that can be taken from the basin’s water resources, remain unchanged at 40.5GL a year.
Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development, Simon Corbell said the plan means the ACT will be able to maintain its current level of water use into the future.
“That’s a very significant change from the previous proposal that saw reductions of up to 30 per cent or down to 27 GL a year compared to the 40.5 GL,” he said.
Mr Corbell said he undertook “detailed and lengthy negotiations” to secure Canberra’s water supply for the future with Murray Darling Basion Authority chair Craig Knowles and Minister for Sustainability, Water, Environment, Population and Communities, Tony Burke.
“There are two steps the Government is focussing on. The first is to make sure we have a sustainable diversion limit which recognised our current use and that has been acheived with the reccommendation of that in the draft basin plan,” he said.
“The second is to make sure we are able to continue to get supplies of additional water as our population grows. I am close to finalising agreements with the Federal Minister in this regard, which will allow us to purchase high security water entitlements into the future to meet that population growth.”
According the draft plan, the ACT will be exempt from a cut of 13 per cent (to 320GL) to the Murrumbidgee catchment – an area that includes Canberra as well as Griffith and Wagga Wagga.
“It’s fair that the ACT is being recognised as a good water user, this is not about special treatment for the ACT,” Mr Corbell said.
“It’s about recognising the ACT as a very efficient user of water. We are the lowest user per capita of water use in the basin. We return the overwhelming majority of water in environmental flows and we have no over allocation.”
At this stage, a cost of a draft plan on the ACT has not been resolved, however Mr Corbell said he was in discussions with the Federal Government.
“I’m not in a position to outline how that will operate, but I am very confident that the ACT will be appropirately protected both financially aswell as through the arrangements for purchasing future water entitlements,” he said.
The Murray Darling Basin Report can be viewed at www.mdba.gov.au/draft-basin-plan