It has been encouraging to hear many people recently noting the importance of using strong local evidence to evaluate the social and economic effects of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan at a community level.
We think this work is important too, especially as the impact of the plan differs between towns, industries and regions. These impacts should not be overlooked.
That’s why the Murray-Darling Basin Authority is standing by its long-standing commitment to do a detailed assessment of the socio-economic impacts of the basin plan for 40 communities across the southern basin.
We made this commitment in response to local requests that the southern basin be the focus of studies similar to those done for the north.
It was important that we use the latest census data, which was released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics late last year.
As a result, we expect to release our social and economic analysis in April.
The issues raised in other reports about the social and economic impact of water reform in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District region will be addressed in our analysis.
As part of this work, from January we will be sharing data for 40 communities in the south, including those in the GMID.
The data will be made available on the MDBA website to give everyone the opportunity to see how their local area has been travelling, with details such as water recovery, the area under irrigation, population and employment levels over time.
We know that the GMID and other communities have experienced many changes over the past 15 years.
This data will enable people to reflect on their own experiences and draw their own conclusions about the things that have affected the social and economic conditions in their local community.
We have no intention of downplaying the impacts of the basin plan, but we will be even-handed in our assessment.
For example, one thing we’ve seen in other regions is how government investment to upgrade irrigation infrastructure has helped boost productive capacity and partly offset the impacts of buybacks.
We’ll be looking to see if this has also occurred in northern Victoria, and explore whether these water savings stay within the communities where investment has occurred.
The basin plan, agreed by all basin governments in 2012, was designed to reduce the volume of water used by industry and return it to the environment.
The Sustainable Diversion Limit adjustment mechanism, which is all about improving the efficiency of water use to benefit irrigation communities as well as the environment, seeks to lessen but cannot remove the impact of this.
The long-term future of all water users is at the heart of the basin compact, from the local GMID level to the system-wide view.
Keep an eye on our website at www.mdba.gov.au and through Facebook.com/MDBAuth for more.
Murray-Darling Basin Authority