The Water Act 2007 was passed by the Federal Parliament in 2007. The Act provides the legislative framework for management the Murray-Darling Basin water resources.
- Required the preparation of the Basin Plan 2012;
- Established the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH);
- Provided the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) with a key role in developing and enforcing water charge and water market rules along the lines agreed in the National Water Initiative.
- Provided the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) with water information functions.
- Provided the Productivity Commission (PC) with a role in reporting on the effectiveness of the implementation of the Murray-Darling basin Plan and water resource plans and the progress towards achieving the objectives and outcomes of the National Water Initiative.
The Water Act 2007 has been amended several times:
- Water Amendment Act 2008 – partial referral of powers by the Basin states
- Water Amendment (Long-term Average Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment) Act 2012) – inclusion of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism.
- Water Amendment (Water for the Environment Special Account) Act 2013 – establishes the Water for the Environment Special Account.
- Water Amendment Act 2015 – 1500GL cap on surface water purchases and greater flexibility with efficiency measures.
- Water Amendment (Review Implementation and Other Measures) Act 2016 – implement Federal Government’s response to 2014 independent review of the Water Act 2007.
The Basin Plan 2012 was passed by the Federal Parliament in 2012. The Basin Plan provides for an integrated and strategic framework for water reform, consistent with the requirements of the Water Act 2007.
- Main Objective: restore the Basin’s rivers and wetlands to health while supporting strong regional communities and sustainable food production.
- Target: The ‘recovery’ of 2750GL of surface water for the environment via direct water entitlement purchases and infrastructure funding (water buybacks have had significant social and economic impacts on valleys across NSW).
The Council of Australian Governments endorsed the National Water Initiative (NWI) in June 2004.
“Blueprint” for water reform:
- Consolidation of 1994 reforms; extended the Cap and Trade market based system; embed a nationally competitive water market, remove barriers to trade, facilitate efficient water use, institute water accounting and address structural adjustment issues.
- The preamble to the Intergovernmental Agreement on a National Water Initiative, declared that: “Water may be viewed as part of Australia’s natural capital, service a number of important productive, environmental and social objectives. (…) governments have a responsibility to ensure that water is allocated and used to achieve socially and economically beneficial outcomes in a manner that is environmentally sustainable.”