Other Inter-Jurisdictional Agreements in the Murray-Darling Basin
This section briefly outlines other inter-jurisdictional agreements have been entered into regarding the management of water resources (Figure 1) in the Murray-Darling Basin.
Figure 1. Agreements governing the management of the MDB
The Seat of Government Act 1908
The availability of water played a major role in the selection of a location for the Australian Capital Territory and for the site of Canberra within the Territory (Pegrum 1983, 129-149). This is why the ACT includes the Cotter River catchment and why, under the Seat of Government Act 1908, the ACT has paramount right to the water in the Molonglo and Queanbeyan Rivers (both tributaries of the Murrumbidgee), which New South Wales is required to protect for the use of the ACT.
There is no institution or formal arrangements for the joint management of these water resources. However, the Memorandum of Understanding setting out the ACT's participation in the Murray-Darling Basin Initiative states that "NSW and the ACT will prepare a Memorandum of Understanding to define how the two governments will interact in the Murrumbidgee Region".
The New South Wales-Queensland Border Rivers Agreement 1946
The New South Wales-Queensland Border Rivers Agreement 1946 covers the inter-state rivers of the two states (Figure 1). The main points to the Agreement are set out in the preamble to the Schedule attached to the Act: it is desirable that certain works be constructed on those portions of the Dumaresq, Macintyre and Barwon Rivers which constitute part of the border between the States of New South Wales and Queensland on certain effluents from these rivers and on certain tributaries of the Dumaresq River in both the said States with a view to water conservation, water supply and irrigation in the said States and that certain investigations be made in respect of streams which intersect the said border west of Mungindi with a view to determining the quantities of water which should be available to the said States from such streams and with a view to the provision of works which could be of benefit to the said States by ensuring better distribution of the water in certain of such streams and for other purposes.
To administer the Agreement, the Dumaresq-Border Rivers Commission was set up, on which the governments of New South Wales and Queensland are equally represented.
To facilitate the conservation, equal sharing and use of the border rivers, a number of storage and regulatory structures have been built (DBBRC nda). West of Mungindi are a number of streams that flow south from Queensland into New South Wales. These are known as the 'intersecting streams'. Though mentioned briefly in the Agreement, they have received relatively little attention, except in terms of a number of regulatory structures on the Balonne and its distributaries.
This situation has changed significantly over recent years with increased attention being given to arable farming, especially cotton. For example, a weir has been built at Cunnamulla on the Warrego (DBBRC ndb). However, whilst water sharing arrangements in the border rivers have been agreed to, similar arrangements for the intersecting streams have yet to be adequately determined.
The Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Act 1949
Passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1949, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Act 1949 made provision for "the development and use of the water resources of the area for the generation of electricity, for the provision of water for irrigation and the sharing of water between the States" (SMHEA 1986). However, it was not until 1958, with construction of the Scheme well advanced, that a formal agreement was reached between the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria "with regard to the construction and operation of the Scheme, the distribution of power and water, charges to be made for electricity, and other such matters" (SMHEA 1986).
A major function of the Agreement is thus the management and sharing of the water resources of the area covered by the Snowy Mountains Scheme (Figure 1). The Agreement set up the Snowy Mountains Council (established in 1959) to undertake these and other functions and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority to carry out the operation and maintenance of the hydro-electric scheme.
The Council's membership consists of representatives of the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victorian governments and the Authority. The Authority operates under the direction of the Council. The future corporatisation of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority will no doubt result in changes to water management and its relations with the MDBC.
The prime functions of the Snowy Mountains Scheme are the generation of electricity by means of a number of hydro-electric generating stations and the provision of water for irrigation along the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers (see Electricity Generation).
The nature of the Scheme resulted in a number of amendments to the River Murray Waters Agreement. Given its date, the original Act was unusual and pioneering in that it contained a number of clauses relating to the environment of the Snowy Mountains. In particular, a requirement was placed upon the Authority to protect the catchments of the Scheme (SMHEA nd). The Scheme results in a net transfer of water from the Snowy River of 572 GL to the Murray and 550 GL to the Murrumbidgee.
The consequences of the reduced flows in the Snowy River downstream of Jindabyne Dam have become a matter of considerable controversy (SGCMC 1996) and are currently the subject of the Snowy Water Inquiry, jointly sponsored by the New South Wales and Victorian governments (SWI 1998a and 1998b).
The Victoria-South Australia Groundwater (Border Agreement) 1985
The Border Groundwater Agreement between South Australia and Victoria covers an area 20 kilometres wide on each side of their common border (Figure 1). In this 'Designated Area', the purpose of the Agreement is to protect the groundwater resources and to provide for the co-operative management and equitable sharing of those resources and to guard against the undue depletion or degradation thereof (preamble to Second Schedule of Groundwater (Border Agreement) Act, 1985).
The Agreement established the Border Review Committee which is responsible for the management of the Designated Areas' groundwater resources, including permissible volumes for extraction and their sharing between the two States (BGARC 1986).
The Great Artesian Basin
The south-western portion of the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) extends under the northern parts of the Murray-Darling Basin (see Groundwater Resources) (Figure 1). Though there is no formal agreement for the joint management of the GAB's groundwater resources, a program involving the Commonwealth, New South Wales, South Australia and Northern Territory governments is in progress to improve resource management, especially in terms of reducing the wastage of water from free-flowing bores (Eigeland and Joshua 1996).
BGARC (1986): Border Groundwaters Agreement Review Committee: first annual report to 30 June, 1986. Governments of Victoriaand South Australia, Melbourne and Adelaide.
DBBRC (nda): Boggabilla Weir. Dumaresq-Barwon Border Rivers Commission, Brisbane.
DBBRC (ndb): Sharing the Waters of the Warrego River Basin. Dumaresq-Barwon Border Rivers Commission, Brisbane.
Eigeland, N. & Joshua, E. (1996): "Managing the Great Artesian Basin". Australian Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 9(1), 21-26.
Pegrum, R. (1983): The Bush Capital: how Australia chose Canberra as its federal city. Hale & Iremonger Ltd., Sydney.
SGCMC (1996): Expert Panel Environmental Flow Assessment of the Snowy River below Jindabyne Dam. Snowy Genoa Catchment
Management Committee, Dalgety.
SMHEA (1986): "The Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority". pp. 430-436 in Australian Year Book 1986. Australian Bureau ofStatistics, Canberra.
SMHEA (nd): The Snowy Mountains Scheme: the environment: a position statement. Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority,Cooma.
SWI (1998a): Snowy Water Inquiry Issues Paper. Snowy Water Inquiry, Sydney.
SWI (1998b): A Guide to the Snowy Water Inquiry. Snowy Water Inquiry, Sydney.