The Murray–Darling Basin Plan included 2750 GL of water to be recovered from consumptive use and returned to the environment each year. In early 2016, a Senate Select Committee found that elements of implementation of the plan are producing and encouraging efficient water use, and positive economic, social and environmental outcomes. Concerns were expressed that elements of the plan, and associated implementation, were having negative impacts on economies and communities in the Basin. The committee made 31 recommendations about implementation of the plan, including cost and benefit analyses, entitlements and water recovery actions, liability for damage from environmental watering, cold-water pollution, salt interception, and expansion of the Long-Term Intervention Monitoring Project. Monitoring and assessment of plan outcomes will be assisted in future by collaborative agreements on data sharing and knowledge exchange, and use of a common aquatic ecosystem toolkit.
At a state and territory level, a 2014 audit of the effectiveness of catchment management authorities in Victoria found that ‘the existing approaches to catchment management in Victoria are inadequate. In particular, the statewide approach is fragmented and short term in focus, while catchment condition and changes over time are poorly understood’ (Victorian Auditor-General 2014). Victoria’s 2013 SoE report commented that ‘management activities such as fencing, revegetation, weed control and the release of environmental flows have played an important role in maintaining and improving river condition. These activities are likely to have improved river resilience during the long drought period, and will further improve resilience in the future’ (Victorian Government 2013a). The report also noted that it will take some years before these changes are reflected in condition assessments. The Victorian Government’s Our catchments, our communities—integrated catchment management in Victoria 2016–19, released in early 2016, includes a promise of future improvements to catchment ecosystem monitoring, evaluation and reporting.
The Great Barrier Reef 2013–14 report card reported mostly poor to very poor progress towards 2018 catchment targets for factors directly affecting catchment run-off, including low uptake of best management practices by sugar cane growers (e.g. nutrient management at 13 per cent of growing area) and graziers (e.g. pasture management at 28 per cent; 22 per cent in the Fitzroy Basin). Losses of wetlands and forest were reported as continuing, and the overall condition of the inshore marine receiving environment remained poor in 2013–14.
In central Australia, the mid-term review for stage 3 of the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative was completed in February 2013. The review found many significant achievements arising from the initiative, including some evidence of assisting achievement of National Water Initiative commitments. It was suggested that, although (groundwater mound) spring flows were improving, more work was required to better understand the ecological significance of the springs and the benefits of returning flows to them.