The Murray–Darling Basin Plan, which came into effect in late 2012, guides governments, regional authorities and communities about how to sustainably manage and use the surface waters and groundwaters of the Basin. The Basin Plan sets new sustainable diversion limits on the amount of water allocated to consumptive use. It also specifies plans and frameworks covering water trading, water quality, environmental water provisions, community access to potable water, and implementation and monitoring of the plan.
Early indications are that environmental watering in the Basin, along with the effects of natural floods, contributes to ecological benefits for stream metabolism, macroinvertebrates, vegetation, frogs and fish.
Other broader water management and policy factors in the past 5 years that have shaped, and are shaping, the inland water environment include changing impetus, support and governance of the National Water Initiative—the key framework for improving Australia’s water knowledge, planning and management in the past decade—and renewed policy attention to developing northern Australia.
The Australian Government’s Bioregional Assessment Programme is compiling the evidence necessary to support decisions taken by states and territories about coal-seam gas and large coalmining developments, and potential measures to mitigate the impacts of any new development.
Since 2011, a massive expansion in national-scale water information occurred under the Bureau of Meteorology. This includes delivery of the National Water Account, Australian Water Resources Assessments, and extensive national surface-water and groundwater data and information systems. These services and products have significantly increased the situational awareness of our water resources. They have also provided consistent reporting to support better assessment of trends, both against the baseline of SoE 2011 and for longer terms that are more appropriate to ecological systems.