THE two million Australians who live in the Murray-Darling Basin "can breathe easier" following the Ministerial Council's latest deliberations.
The Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud said that he was pleased with the outcome of the council's meeting on Friday, which involved water ministers from the four basin States, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.
"We all took a leap of faith in one another, and the two million Australians who live in the basin can breathe easier. It was time to show leadership and the Basin Plan is now on track," he said.
"Regarding the 450GL of upwater: The 450GL will only be delivered with neutral or positive social and economic outcomes."
Mr Littleproud said that further work was needed to develop detailed additional criteria defining neutral or positive socio-economic impacts, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
"In the meantime, let's get cracking on the off-farm, urban and industrial projects and begin delivering water towards the 450GL total from those projects," he said.
"I don't consider the EY [Ernst and Young consultancy] analysis the bible of the basin but it's a good starting point to work from. The EY analysis says around 369GL of the 450GL could be recovered through industrial, urban and off-farm projects.
"Ministers have agreed the first priority is to recover the 62GL towards the 450GL required by June 2019, to make sure the 605 can lawfully be delivered.
"We got commitments today from the States to deliver up to 64GL towards the 450GL through projects identified by the States - more than the 62GL required."
The Communique released after the meeting states: "Ministers confirmed that Basin Governments are now committed to the funding and delivery of Sustainable Diversion Limit adjustment mechanism projects, in consultation with local communities, between now and 2024."
The Ministerial Council meeting was chaired by Mr Littleproud and other members attending were Anthony Lynham (Queensland), Niall Blair (NSW), Lisa Neville (Victoria), David Speirs (South Australia) and Mick Gentleman (ACT). The Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston was also present.
Mr Littleproud said that he was prepared to explore options to help fund metering in order to roll it out faster and he has commenced discussions with Queensland and New South Wales to explore options for funding water meters to improve compliance.