Australia Signs Final Murray-Darling Basin Water Plan Into Law

Australia signed into law a plan to boost the amount of water returned to the Murray-Darling Basin and ensure sustainable food production in last season’s second-biggest exporter of wheat.

The government accepted the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s recommendation to return 2,750 gigaliters of surface water to the environment, Environment Minister Tony Burke said in a statement today. The plan will flush an average of two million metric tons of salt from the system each year, he said.

The Murray-Darling Basin, which extends from southern Queensland to South Australia, covers 14 percent of Australia’s land and produces more than one-third of the nation’s food including wheat and dairy. The government said Oct. 26 it would spend an extra A$1.8 billion ($1.9 billion) over ten years from 2014 to increase the amount of water returned to the system by 450 gigaliters.

“Consistent over-allocation and mismanagement seriously degraded the health of the system,” Burke said in the statement. Discharging salt “will significantly improve water quality and prevent land degradation,” he said.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority was set up in 2008 to create a plan to manage water in an area where some river beds run dry in years of drought. Water storages in the Murray-Darling Basin were 94 percent full as of Nov. 21, data on the basin management authority’s website showed.

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