Final report and report on Constitution Alteration (Water Resources) 2019

September 2021

© Commonwealth of Australia 2021
ISBN: 978-1-76093-283-1

View the report as a single document:

View the report as separate downloadable parts:



List of Recommendations

Executive Summary

Chapter 1—Introduction

  Referral and conduct of the inquiry
  Structure and scope of report
  Note on references
  Background information on the Basin Plan

Chapter 2—Governance and the complexities of federalism and water management

  Division of powers between the Commonwealth and the states
  The impact of current arrangements on clarity and accountability
  Communities feel over-consulted, under-heard, and disappointed with government responses
  Class action in the NSW Supreme Court
  Calls for a national integrity commission and a Commonwealth royal commission
  Constitution Alteration (Water Resources) 2019
  Opposition to constitutional changes
  Alternative proposals for reform
  Committee view and recommendations

Chapter 3—Scrutiny in a multijurisdictional setting

  South Australia's Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission
  Australian Competition and Consumer Commission water markets inquiry
  Limitations of parliamentary committees
  Initial state opposition to water-sharing review
  Experience of the Productivity Commission
  Calls to reinstate the National Water Commission
  Committee view and recommendations

Chapter 4—Transparency

  Complexity of the legislative, policy and institutional landscape
  Community comprehension
  Information dispersal
  Technological and other constraints
  Water accounts and registers
  Calls for a water audit
  Water models
  Water years
  Transparency of water deliberations and decisions
  Initiatives to improve information and transparency in the basin
  Committee view and recommendations

Chapter 5—Compliance and enforcement

  Metering and compliance across basin jurisdictions
  Standard of metering required
  Reporting water use
  Burden of metering costs
  Number of agencies involved and differences in compliance activities undertaken
  Differences in water accounting and related inconsistencies in 'compliant' use
  Understanding compliance obligations
  Proving illegal water take
  Penalising illegal water take
  Support for increasing uniformity
  Financial incentivisation to ensure states meet their obligations
  Compliance roles and responsibilities
  Role of the Inspector-General
  Legislation for the Inspector-General role
  What powers should the Inspector-General have?
  Initiatives to improve compliance
  Committee view and recommendations

Chapter 6—Environmental watering

  Current environmental watering arrangements
  Complexity of watering arrangements
  Communicating clear objectives and outcomes
  Adequacy of environmental watering
  Monitoring and evaluating outcomes of environmental watering decisions
  Complementary measures
  Watering in a drying climate
  Committee view and recommendations

Chapter 7—Indigenous Basin Communities

  Significance of water to Indigenous Australians
  Right to sustain culture
  Adequacy of consultation during plan implementation
  Inconsistent approaches to WRPs
  Cultural flows
  Environmental watering issues relating to Indigenous communities
  Opportunities to strengthen involvement in water management
  Investment in Indigenous communities
  Committee view and recommendations

Chapter 8—SDLAM

  Background information on the SDLAM
  Delays to projects
  Net impact of SDLAM projects
  Ability to deliver environmentally equivalent outcomes
  Committee view and recommendations

Chapter 9—Strategic planning and variations in climate

  National strategy for water use and food security
  Unsustainable permanent plantings
  Floodplain harvesting
  Suggestions to enhance climate resilience
  Work underway to address the challenges arising from variations in climate
  Committee view and recommendations

Australian Labor Party Senators' Additional Comments

  Concerns regarding transparency and accountability in water markets
  Concerns regarding engagement with First Nations communities
  Concerns regarding delivery of the Basin Plan

Dissenting Report by Senator Rex Patrick


The Nationals Senators' Additional Comments

  Part 1: Introduction
  List of recommendations
  Part 2: Close the feedback loop
  Part 3: Focus on outcomes
  Part 4: Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism
  Part 5: SDL Compliance
  Part 6: Conclusion

Australian Greens Senators' Dissenting Report


Appendix 1—Submissions

Appendix 2—Public hearings and witnesses

Appendix 3—Additional Documents

Appendix 4—Submissions to the Constitution Alteration (Water Resources) 2019 Inquiry

Committee Secretariat contact:

Senior Clerk's Office
Department of the Senate
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: +61 02 6277 3555
Fax: +61 02 6277 5809