The Murray-Darling Basin Authority together with the Victorian, New South Wales and South Australian governments have jointly released a new report on Managing Delivery Risks in the River Murray System.

Murray-Darling Basin Water Ministers have committed to working together on delivery and shortfall risks and discussing these risks and management approach with our communities.

A shortfall is when water that is entitled to be used cannot be delivered when and where it is needed. This new report provides information to water users and communities on the key findings from recent studies to better understand delivery risks in the River Murray System and sets out the actions needed to support governments and water users to manage those risks.

The report analyses the impacts of system changes over the last 20 years in both supply and demand across the southern connected Basin. This includes reduced capacity of Barmah Choke, changing patterns of irrigation and environmental water use and climate change. It notes these factors will continue to pose risks to delivery into the future.

Collectively, the key take home messages from this report are:

  1. Shortfall risks exist, they will never go away, and they are likely to increase as the capacity of the Choke continues to decrease.
  2. We need to continue to understand the ecological tolerances of our rivers and factor this into system operations to mitigate and avoid ongoing damage.
  3. Jointly, governments and water users need to actively manage the risk and mitigate it to the extent that is cost-effectively possible.
  4. The remaining risk must be assigned to, and communicated to, individual water users who are then responsible for implementing their own measures to manage their own business risks.
  5. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority must understand the risk, monitor it, and communicate to water users how the risk is varying on a week to week basis.
  6. When the risk is realised, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and partner governments must enact a pre-planned, coordinated mitigation strategy.
  7. The level of shortfall that cannot be mitigated will have to be managed by restrictions on diversions. It is the responsibility of each state to manage diversions in its jurisdiction.

The governments that operate the Murray system have embarked on a series of initial actions designed to work towards a more robust water delivery framework. These include:

  1. Identifying tolerable ecological limits of tributaries and the Barmah Choke.
  2. Establishing shortfall response arrangements.
  3. Communicating the risks and the response arrangements to water users and broader water markets.
  4. Assessing and reporting the impacts of development changes.
  5. Regularly reviewing the water delivery framework.

Further work is already underway to explore longer-term measures to optimise delivery capacity within the River Murray System in light of the changes in recent years. Exploring these measures will build on previous investigations and will involve community engagement including close consultation with Traditional Owners, environmental managers, water users and the broader community.

More information on the work being undertaken on delivery and shortfall risks in the River Murray system is available on the Murray-Darling Basin Authority website at