The Federal Government has opened funding for the Resilient Rivers Water Infrastructure Program (RRWIP). 

As part of a broader scheme under the Restoring our Rivers draft framework, the RRWIP is aimed at addressing the pressing water management challenges within the basin.

The RRWIP is inviting proposals from Murray–Darling Basin Plan (MDBP) state governments for projects that enhance irrigation networks and water management practices. The objective is to reduce water loss and return vital water resources back to the environment, thereby contributing to the sustainability of the river system.

Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek has emphasised the urgency and commitment of the government towards implementing the Restoring Our Rivers Act. 

“We’re determined to get this done,” she said. 

Now that the Restoring Our Rivers Act has commenced, we’re not wasting any time.”

Plibersek said the government's strategy is to minimise the need for water purchases by investing in water-saving infrastructure projects, offering a ray of hope for the future of water management in the region.

The Restoring Our Rivers initiative was developed in response to the Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP) shortfall in achieving its target of an additional 450 gigalitres (GL) of water savings by 2024. 

Despite having saved approximately 2,000GL so far, the plan requires further action to meet its goals. 

The introduction of infrastructure upgrades is a strategic move to reduce the government's reliance on water purchases from irrigation - a scenario many farming communities view as potentially devastating.

There has been widespread concern among basin communities about the adequacy of consultation on these changes. 

“Basin communities have already been there with past buybacks, so they already know how this will end badly for their towns and people,” says Claire Miller, CEO of the NSW Irrigators Council.

In addition to the RRWIP, the draft framework includes two other programs: the Voluntary Water Purchase Program and the Sustainable Communities Program. 

The latter aims to offer direct compensation to communities affected by water buybacks, mitigating socio-economic impacts.

The Government has opened a consultation period for the Restoring our Rivers draft framework until March 4, 2024. 

Interested parties can have their say and view the framework by visiting Consultation Hub, or read about the recent changes made to the Water Act 2007 and the Basin Plan 2012 - Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Act 2023.