It is one hundred years since a landmark agreement was made between New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Commonwealth for the management and sharing of water resources of the Murray River.
In September 1914, after nearly sixty years of debate, droughts, community action, enquiry and a Royal Commission, the River Murray Waters Agreement was settled. This was a significant milestone in the history of Federation, with states and the Commonwealth agreeing to work together for the common good.
Today the spirit of this historic Agreement was acknowledged by Water Ministers from the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia in celebrating one hundred years of continuous cooperation between their governments in the management of the Murray River system.
While the economic, social and environmental significance of the Murray River has grown over time, the fundamentals of the original River Murray Waters Agreement remain in place to this day.
Since the original agreement was reached in 1914:
• construction occurred of dams and weirs for river regulation to secure water supplies needed to sustain irrigated agriculture and communities across the states;
• irrigated agriculture has grown into a highly efficient and productive sector of the national economy;
• cooperative water sharing arrangements ensured that all Murray River communities, regardless of state borders, could manage through the critical water shortages of the Millennium Drought; and
• numerous environmental initiatives have helped to secure a long term sustainable future for the Murray River and its internationally significant environmental values.
One hundred years on, the co-operative management of the conservation, sharing and supply of water across state borders continues under its current form—the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement.
In a world where co-operative river management across borders is rare and conflict over water resources is rife, this enduring partnership to sustainable river and water resource management continues to garner international acclaim.
Governments acknowledged the efforts of the former Murray-Darling Basin Commission and now the Murray-Darling Basin Authority in its continued management of the Murray River and natural resource management programs (such as The Living Murray Initiative), on behalf of the joint governments.
Together, the governments of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Commonwealth took stock of the achievements of the last one hundred years, and pledged to continue their cooperative river management through the century ahead.