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Tenders to buy water in the Murray-Darling Basin are due to start as the Federal Government seeks to deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full. The government will return 450GL of water to the environment by 2027.  

Federal Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, said, “We will soon open tenders for the voluntary purchase of up to 70GL of water from willing sellers in parts of the southern Basin, supported by a water trading strategy released today. Not only will regional communities prosper when the Murray-Darling River system is healthy – we all will. That is what our government is focused on.”  

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

The government has released Restoring our Rivers: Framework for delivering the 450GL of additional environmental water to support this program. It includes making progress on the Basin Plan and an implementation plan to guide the delivery of the 450GL target over the next 12 months. The Framework also seeks to link the water trading strategy to help water market participants make more informed decisions.  

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

“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.“  

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 47.5km of aged or leaking pipes around Griffith and Leeton in New South Wales fixed or replaced.  

In addition to 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.  

“Since passing the Restoring our Rivers legislation last year, the government is on track to deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full,” Ms Plibersek said.  

Image: 169169/stock.adobe.com

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