Planned environmental water (managed by Queensland Government) and the Commonwealth holdings will provide most of the environmental flows in the Lower Balonne. There may be an opportunity to add to these flows using event-based mechanisms, infrequently and strategically.
Event-based mechanisms include: temporary purchase of water harvesting allocations by seasonal assignment; purchase of water from a private storage; no pump arrangements; or more sophisticated arrangements like permanent, at-call options.
In recent years, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO), with input from Queensland and Lower Balonne stakeholders, has undertaken, or commissioned work on event-based mechanisms, including:
- engagement with water licence holders and initial drafting of contracts that fit within existing Commonwealth and Queensland legal and policy frameworks, particularly around 2015;
- funding the development of a Code of practice for the release of stored water from privately owned farm storages to receiving waters in the Queensland Murray-Darling Basin;
- publishing of annual Portfolio Management Plans that identify environmental outcomes being sought across the Basin, including the Lower Balonne; and
- a comparative assessment of event-based mechanisms for the case study of providing 10 GL to the Narran Lakes – by the BDA Group with CSIRO.
This work identified a number of implementation issues as a foundation to moving forward.
Water recovery in the Lower Balonne is now at an advanced stage – with 91 GL recovered (not including groundwater). The CEWO is now working with Marsden Jacob Associates and Owen Droop Hydrology to develop an implementation strategy for event-based mechanisms across the Lower Balonne catchment to ensure that any arrangement makes ecological sense, is feasible, and is reasonably cost effective as a good use of taxpayer money. This new project will build on previous work and engagement and will:
- consider that some Queensland regulations may change– for example, the possibility of establishing flow event transfers is currently being considered by Queensland;
- include a review of potential, based on past flow events and hydrological modelling;
- develop practical, event-based measures, including the operational, accounting, regulatory and compliance arrangements; and
- consider arrangements for licences with multi-year accounting or instantaneous volumetric limit.
The strategy is scheduled to be completed before the end of 2019.
The MJA team will be engaging directly with stakeholders after the St George roundtable to help develop and identify practical mechanisms. Based on this work, and previous work, the CEWH / CEWO will decide which event-based mechanisms to implement, and under what circumstances. Considerations will include available funds, the environmental demand in the Lower Balonne compared to other parts of the Basin, policy settings and frameworks, and expected efficiency and effectiveness.
We need your input
Further background information to support the implementation of event-based mechanisms can be found here:
- The BDA Group / CSIRO report can be found here.
- CEWO Portfolio Management Plan for the Northern Intersecting Streams 2018-19 can be downloaded here.
- Qld Code of practice for the release of stored water from privately owned farm storages can be downloaded here.
- Commonwealth environmental water trading framework can be downloaded here.