Private carryover and Basin Plan compliance

Now Closed

This online engagement was hosted on YourSAy from 7 January 2020 to 9 March 2020. Find out more about the consultation process. Below is a record of the engagement.

Amending the 2019 Water Allocation Plan for the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse

The below outlines draft changes to the private carryover policy included in the 2019 Water Allocation Plan for the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse.

Private carryover and Basin Plan compliance PDF is available for download here.


The Murray-Darling Basin Plan sets long-term sustainable diversion limits (SDLs) on how much water can be used in the Murray-Darling Basin (the Basin). This ensures there is enough water remaining in the system to keep the River Murray in a healthy state. SDLs replace the former Cap on diversions set out in the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement.

Historically, total consumptive use across the Basin has been above environmentally sustainable levels. Water has been recovered in each Basin state for the environment. This extra water will help support healthy rivers, wetlands and floodplains.

The Water Allocation Plan for the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse (the plan) sets out how water from the South Australian portion of the River Murray is shared, and provides a transparent process for making allocation decisions.

Changes are being considered to the private carryover policy that may have an impact on South Australia’s compliance with SDLs. This risk and the associated potential impact on the reliability of Class 3 entitlements needs to be considered.

What is non-compliance?

The SDL is a long-term annual average. Each year, the amount of water used (actual use), and the amount allowed to be used (permitted use) under the SDL, is compared – and the difference is recorded on a register.

It is expected that there will be a difference between actual use and permitted use from year to year. The Murray-Darling Basin Plan allows for this by maintaining a cumulative balance of debits and credits. In some years more water will be used than is allowed (resulting in a debit) and in some years less water will be used than is allowed (resulting in a credit).

Non-compliance only occurs when the cumulative rolling debit is equal to or greater than 20 per cent of the SDL.

Compliance with the SDL is the responsibility of the state government; entitlement holders can use the volume allocated to them according to the rules in the plan.

The plan contains the rules for allocating and using water, and now includes the SDL for the SA River Murray.

A provision has been included in the plan to allow the Minister for Environment and Water to take action, in consultation with stakeholders, to address SDL noncompliance or risk of SDL non-compliance (Section 5.3.3 of the plan). Any actions will seek to minimise adverse impacts for entitlement holders.

As this is the first water use year that SDLs apply, further engagement about how to address the SDL compliance risk will be undertaken once the Department for Environment and Water has a better understanding of how water use is tracking against the SDL, and once the new SDL arrangements have been in place for a full water use year.

How do proposed changes to the private carryover policy impact SDL compliance?

Amendments to the private carryover policy are proposed that would allow eligible carryover volumes to be ‘rolled over’ from one year to the next during a sequence of consecutive dry years.  This makes carryover water more reliable than under the current policy arrangements.

This could mean that more water users choose to utilise South Australian carryover (more often and/or in higher volumes) resulting in higher overall water use than if the current policy arrangements were maintained.

Under the proposed amendements, if a greater volume of carryover water is granted and used then this could mean that there is a greater risk that South Australia may not comply with its SDL. If water use exceeds the historical cap, which is a level equal to 90 per cent of entitlements, then action may need to be taken sooner to address the risk of non-compliance (1 A more reliable (generous) carryover product would put even more pressure on SA’s SDL compliance and is likely to have an even bigger impact on the reliability of allocation against entitlement.).

In a worst case scenario, action to achieve SDL compliance could require the state to reduce allocations against entitlements in some non-dry years, to bring water use back to being compliant with the SDL.

This would result in more water being available in a dry year, via carryover arrangements, with potentially slightly less in some non-dry years if action is needed to comply with the SDL.

The South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board (the Board) and the Department for Environment and Water would like to hear about your thoughts on whether the benefit of ensuring carryover isn’t lost in a dry year outweighs the risk of slightly reduced allocations in some non-dry years to comply with the SDL.

More detail about the proposed changes to the private carryover policy are set out in a separate information sheet.

Consultation on the proposed changes to the private carryover policy is currently underway.

How can I provide feedback on the water allocation plan?

The Board will be consulting on the proposed private carryover policy in the draft plan until 5pm on Tuesday 10 March 2020.

The Board would like to know what you think of the changes and is inviting responses on the draft plan in the form of written submissions from all interested parties. See the Get Involved tab to find out how you can have your say.

Feedback on the draft plan will also be gathered at information sessions to be held during the consultation period at locations along the River Murray. 

Where can I find out more?

More information on the changes in the draft plan is outlined on the following tabs about:

Hard copies of the information sheets and the draft plan are available at the Natural Resources offices located in Murray Bridge, Berri and Mount Barker.