A new five year monitoring plan for the Murray-Darling Basin announced today by the Commonwealth Government will provide unprecedented knowledge into the effectiveness of environmental watering.

“Localised teams of experts from Australia’s leading regional universities and research institutions will undertake projects in key areas of Commonwealth environmental water delivery,” said Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment.

“This monitoring will focus on understanding the impact of environmental water in the rivers and wetlands across the Murray-Darling Basin and will be supported by a Commonwealth Government contribution of $30 million,” Senator Birmingham said.

“Improving the health of the Murray-Darling is much more complex than simply adding more water. We must ensure environmental water is released in ways that deliver the best outcomes for water quality, native species, wetlands and river banks.

“Over 200 people from 30 organisations have contributed to the design of this vital work, including locally based land and water managers, Basin State governments, the Murray Darling Basin Authority, local environmental management groups and community members.

“Importantly, it will help inform how environmental water is managed, enable us to get the best environmental returns for each drop of water used and demonstrate what is being achieved through the Basin Plan.

“Around $12 billion is being spent to improve the health of the Murray-Darling and place it on a sustainable footing. This monitoring plan will be essential to ensure this massive investment delivers optimal outcomes for river health,” he said.

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder’s long-term monitoring and evaluation activity is a $30 million Commonwealth investment in monitoring and evaluation to 2019.

Each project will deliver vital data accurately measuring outcomes from environmental watering over time, ecological indicators such as water quality, fish and waterbird reproduction, vegetation and micro-invertebrate diversity and frog abundance. 

“This longer-term monitoring is another step towards comprehensive ecological monitoring and builds on a number of short-term monitoring and evaluation projects over the recent years,” said Senator Birmingham.

Senator Birmingham said the scientific integrity of the programme is assured, with the Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre designing the framework and undertaking a Basin-wide evaluation against environmental objectives of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. 

“But it’s not just about the science. The people overseeing this work will also help the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office to establish new ways to inform collaborate with local land and water managers and interested members of the community,” he said.

Areas of focus include the Gwydir, Lachlan, Edward-Wakool, Murrumbidgee, Goulburn, Lower Murray and the Junction of the Warrego and Darling valleys.