Determining Priorities for Action
Salinity management in the Murray-Darling Basin is recognised as a significant issue in a range of national and state strategic and management plans. For example, the South Australian Strategic Plan contains a specific salinity target. This recognises the potential for salinity to impact significantly on the State’s prosperity, particularly in relation to River Murray values.
The integrated nature of the planning framework enables clear strategic directions to be formulated including identifying priorities, developing appropriate policy mechanisms and directing resources and relevant investments.
A key aim is to ensure South Australia does not increase its salinity levels above an acceptable level as measured currently at Morgan:
“to maintain the average daily salinity at Morgan at a simulated level of less than 800 EC for at least 95 percent of the time, during the benchmark period” (Water Act 2007 (Cth) p384).
Further detail is provided below on strategies at a national, state and regional level and relevant planning frameworks.
National Policy Strategies and Plans
National water policy is guided by the National Water Initiative and more specifically for the Murray Darling Basin by the Water Act 2007 (Cth) (Water Act) which establishes the management framework for the Murray Darling Basin.
The Basin Salinity Management Strategy (BSMS) (2001-2015) is a basin-wide agreement that establishes salinity targets for the main river and the tributary valleys of the system reflecting a strong catchment-based approach to salinity management.
The National Water Initiative (NWI) represents a shared commitment by governments to increase the efficiency of Australia’s water use, leading to greater certainty for investment and productivity.
The Water Act 2007 established an independent Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) with the functions and powers, including enforcement powers, needed to ensure that Basin water resources are managed in an integrated and sustainable way.
As part of the basin plan the MDBA will be required to develop a Water Quality and Salinity Management Plan (WQSMP). The WQSMP will:
- identify the key causes of water quality degradation in the Murray-Darling Basin
- include water quality and salinity objectives and targets for the Basin water resources.
The National Water Quality Management Strategy (NWQMS) is a framework which involves determining the appropriate environmental value for water-bodies and ensuring that water quality remains within acceptable limits to protect those values.
State Policies, Strategies and Plans
A range of state policies, strategies and plans recognise the importance of maintaining river salinity within acceptable levels and also identify a range of strategies for achieving salinity outcomes.
Target 3.11 of South Australia’s Strategic Plan is “South Australia maintains a positive balance on the Murray-Darling Basin Authority salinity register”. Strategies to achieve this include construction and maintenance of infrastructure to reduce salt loads to the River, working in partnership with communities to reduce the salinity impacts of irrigation, developing and implementing salinity management policies and ensuring that SA’s salinity accountability is transparent and accurate.
Water For Good Strategy (Action 56): “Maintain a positive balance on the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s Salinity Register, and continue to implement strategies and actions to ensure the real time management of salinity in the lower reaches of the River Murray so that water quality remains at levels suitable for human consumption”. This acknowledges the primary importance of tackling salinity to the State and the prime importance of SA maintaining its commitment to the Basin Salinity Management Strategy (BSMS) and salinity registers process, as well as the need to manage salinity on a day-to-day basis for consumptive requirements.
The Natural Resources Management Act 2004 (NRM Act) establishes the regime for natural resource planning and water allocation and management in the state, with the aim of promoting ecologically sustainable use of water and other natural resources.
The River Murray Act 2003 provides for the protection and enhancement of the River Murray and related areas and ecosystems.
The Environment Protection Act 2003 and the associated Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy 2003 (EEPWQ) provide the framework for protecting water quality including for the River Murray.
South Australian River Murray Salinity Strategy
The South Australian River Murray Salinity Strategy (SARMSS) essentially provides South Australia’s commitment to take full responsibility of its reach of the River Murray in terms of salinity and to provide full support to the Basin Salinity Management Strategy 2001 - 2015.
Regional Policies, Strategies and Plans
The River Murray Water Allocation Plan (WAP) establishes specific principles regarding river salinity management, which have been developed into salinity zone policy to manage the salinity impacts of any new irrigation developments. The River Murray Water Allocation Plan contains a specific water use efficiency (WUE) target for irrigators of 85 percent. Achieving this level of WUE decreases the likelihood of deep drainage events which are a major contributor to salinity increases in the long term.
Salinity Zoning Policy
The South Australian River Murray Salinity Zoning Policy is currently under review. The policy has been developed to implement the salinity management provisions included in the Water Allocation Plan (WAP) for the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse.
At the regional level, the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Plan (the Plan) provides the strategic framework for regional NRM priorities and investments.
Land and Water Management Plans (LWMPs) are locally based plans identifying strategies to protect the key assets of the region with a major focus on managing and minimising the salinity impacts on the River Murray.