Water

SDLs going too slowly

By Country News

Progress in the delivery of the Sustainable Diversion Limit efficiency program to date has been ‘‘troubling slow’’ according to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, which has called for basin governments to accelerate their implementation.

In the association’s first progress report into the projects, it said the ‘‘ambitious program’s’’ timelines were facing pressure.

‘‘Completing all projects by 2024 will be challenging, and there are difficult and legislative risks to be resolved,’’ the report said.

Currently more than $1.5billion has been set aside to fund the efficiency measures, which will deliver 605Gl back to the consumptive pool, while the controversial 450Gl of ‘up-water’ will be returned to the environment in return, the MDBA says.

The projects have previously received criticism from communities, who have expressed dismay at the lack of detail and publicly available business cases.

‘‘The MDBA considers that the level of engagement and transparency has been insufficient,’’ the MDBA wrote in its report.

‘‘Progress in establishing the necessary funding and governance arrangements has been slow ... the June 30, 2024 deadline will be challenging for some of the more complex projects.’’

The SDL Adjustment Mechanism currently has no dedicated committee to oversee the project implementation, but the MDBA said it was committed to ensure the projects were delivered on time.

‘‘Supply projects must be implemented effectively in the southern basin to manage the risk of further water recovery in 2024,’’ the report said.

MDBA executive director of partnerships Carl Binning said the report was a ‘‘health check’’ on the progress of the basin.

‘‘The report fulfils the MDBA’s commitment to report annually and to ensure environmental outcomes can be achieved and to improve transparency of the process,’’ Mr Binning said.

‘‘The report acknowledged basin governments’ ongoing commitment to deliver all of these projects, but noted there is a substantial amount of work to be done.

‘‘Key priorities include finalising funding and governance arrangements, ensuring project designs are robust and increasing efforts to engage and work with communities to support on-ground implementation.’’

■The SDL Annual Progress Report is available on the MDBA website: www.mdba.gov.au