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$265 million boost for South Australia under historic River Murray agreement

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Campaign Media Release

Minister for Water Mark Butler


The River Murray will receive a $265 million boost to secure its future under a historic agreement between the Rudd Labor Government and the South Australian Labor Government.

Federal Water Minister Mark Butler and Premier Jay Weatherill today announced the South Australian River Murray Sustainability Program to help build strong and sustainable irrigation communities in the Murray, whilst securing the water resources needed for a healthy river.

“The Rudd Labor Government will provide funding over six years for major investment in irrigation efficiency, purchasing water entitlements for the environment, irrigation industry assistance and regional economic development,” Minister Butler said.

“This program meets the needs of the South Australian irrigation industry and allows farm businesses to become more efficient, productive, competitive and resilient, while securing sustainable water entitlements for the environment.

“Forty billion litres of water entitlements recovered through the new program will help bridge the gap between current water use and the sustainable diversion limits set in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

“It will strengthen the economic base and viability of local communities, which is an important guiding principle of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.”

The Program contains $25 million in funding in Loxton, including:

 $7.5 million to the Loxton Research Centre to expand on the Centre’s existing responsibility for regional and economic development in Loxton and the Riverland, providing benefits to South Australian River Murray communities.

 $12.5 million for a competitive grants program to support employment opportunities and economic development within the region.

 $5 million for South Australia to fund industry-led applied research.

“Like others in the Murray-Darling Basin, the South Australian irrigation industry has faced severe challenges during the millennium drought,” Minister Butler said.

“Federal Labor’s agreement with South Australia has been designed to meet the specific needs of South Australian irrigators allowing us to optimise the efficient use of water, deliver new irrigation technology and industry best practice, while sustaining the security of our environmental water.”

This investment in the sustainability of the Murray-Darling Basin is a significant commitment by the Rudd Labor and State Labor Governments boosting regional economic development in our Riverland communities and supporting our local irrigators with sustainable practices to protect the Murray-Darling Basin.

The first ever Murray-Darling Basin Plan, signed into law last year, sets new sustainable limits on the water that can be taken for consumptive use in the Basin and seeks to restore an initial 2,750 billion of water to the environment. Another 450 GL will be restored through efficiency measures that are socio-economically neutral or beneficial.

The South Australian Government will deliver the program and will hold information sessions along the river before the first call for expressions of interest.

Funding for this initiative is already included in the budget.


Communications Unit: T 03 8625 5111

Authorised by G. Wright, Australian Labor Party, 5/9 Sydney Avenue, Barton, ACT, 2600


The South Australian River Murray Sustainability Program will be delivered via:

South Australian River Murray Irrigation Efficiency Component

Eligible activities for funding include:

(a) On-farm irrigation improvements. Funding for irrigators to improve irrigation systems, to improve water delivery to crops, and water management on farm - for example upgrading to drip irrigation from sprinkler, upgraded irrigation water controllers, changing crop type and complementary measures to minimise evaporation.

(b) Off-farm irrigation improvements. Funding for upgrades to off-farm irrigation delivery infrastructure - for example re-engineering of irrigation infrastructure operator’s delivery infrastructure to improve water delivery to farms and businesses.

Eligibility criteria to apply for the sub-program will include:

(i) ownership of assets proposed to be improved through the program that are supplied by water access entitlements from the South Australian River Murray Prescribed Watercourse; and

(ii) ownership of Class 3 South Australian River Murray water access entitlements that would be transferred to the funding provider as a condition of funding.

South Australian Government Water Purchase Component

The South Australian government will purchase water at prevailing market price from participating irrigators, consolidate the water and transfer it to the Commonwealth.

When added to the water yielded through the South Australian River Murray Irrigation Efficiency component, this activity is to ensure a total of 40 GL Class 3 water access entitlements transfer to the Commonwealth through the two components.

Approaches to market will be through open, competitive processes to secure water from individuals and entities willing to sell water entitlements. Eligibility criteria will be based on ownership of Class 3 South Australian River Murray water access entitlements and capacity to offer unencumbered entitlements for sale.

The purchase activities will use procedures compliant with procurement policies of the South Australian government.

South Australian River Murray Irrigation Industry Assistance Component

A robust and transparent framework will be established by South Australia for it to assess eligibility and merit criteria for allocating grants under this element. Eligible activities under this component of the program will contribute to improvements in the productivity of the South Australian River Murray irrigation industry and may include:

(a) irrigation district restructuring through rezoning land and reconfiguring irrigation delivery infrastructure to support reconfiguration of irrigated farming properties, including consolidation of farming properties in to larger units;

(b) formation of co-operatives or other business entities that may arise from succession planning; (c) reconfiguration of existing farm layouts; (d) support for investment in new technologies, including through training and

skills development