By Tanya Plibersek

04 July 2024



Thursday 4 July 2024

Voluntary water purchase in the Basin kicks off soon

The Albanese Labor Government will soon open tenders to buy water as it gets on with delivering the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full.

The Government is progressively returning 450 gigalitres of water to the environment by 2027, with voluntary purchase just one of the ways that water will be recovered.

Under the Voluntary Water Purchase Program opening the week of 15 July, the Commonwealth will launch its first tender to buy up to 70 gigalitres of water entitlements from willing sellers in parts of the southern Basin.

To support this program, the Government has today released Restoring our Rivers: Framework for delivering the 450 GL of additional environmental water. It includes:

  • progress on the Basin Plan so far and an implementation plan to guide the delivery of the 450 gigalitre target over the next 12 months
  • a link to the water trading strategy to help water market participants make informed decisions.

The Government has taken a steady, staged approach to recovering water, prioritising non-purchase options.

This kicked off in January with the Resilient Rivers Water Infrastructure Program. Under this program, more than $520 million is available for new water saving infrastructure projects. State governments can propose projects such as irrigation network upgrades to further improve water efficiency and management, reduce water loss, and return water to the environment. The first project under this program is the $63.5 million Murrumbidgee Irrigation Urban Channel Pipelines project, which will see 47.5 kilometres of aged or leaking pipes around Griffith and Leeton in NSW fixed or replaced.

On top of significant infrastructure investments, the Government is also supporting local communities with a record $300 million support package as water is recovered. Under the Sustainable Communities Program, states will work directly with Basin communities affected by voluntary water purchase, on investments that create and support local jobs and businesses.

The Government’s staged approach to water recovery has been informed by the latest science, community feedback, lessons from past recovery programs, and consultation with First Nations peoples, industry experts, academics, environmentalists, and the water and agricultural sectors.

Link to Restoring our Rivers: Framework for delivering the 450 GL of additional environmental water

Quotes attributable to the Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek MP:

“For 10 years, Basin communities were shortchanged by the Coalition who sabotaged water recovery, tied up programs in impossible rules, delayed the Basin Plan, and prolonged uncertainty.

“We’ve changed all that and since passing the Restoring our Rivers legislation last year, are on track to deliver the Murray−Darling Basin Plan in full.

“We’re soon opening tenders for the voluntary purchase of up to 70 gigalitres of water from willing sellers in parts of the southern Basin, supported by a water trading strategy released today.

“Our implementation plan also provides transparent, clear information on how progress towards the 450 gigalitre target is tracking – helping to restore trust in this country’s water management.

“We continue to prioritise non-purchase options to recover water, such as investing in water saving infrastructure, and are supporting Basin communities that may feel the impacts of water recovery with a record $300 million investment.

“Not only will regional communities prosper when the Murray-Darling Basin river system is healthy – we all will. That’s what our Government is focused on.”