This is according to Professor Jon Olley, deputy director of Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute following today’s long-awaited release of the Murray-Darling Authority draft plan.

If adopted, the plan will require an extra 2750 gigalitres (GL) of water to be returned to the river system annually.

This is what the authority says communities should be willing to give back in order to restore the basin to health, flushing it clean of salt and ensuring the survival of the flora and fauna that depend on it.

It is a step down from the minimum 3000 GL to 4000 GL figure suggested in last year’s guide, a proposal that previously met with concern from some farmers.

“It is very pleasing to see this draft plan finally released, because without a plan in place we can’t solve the issues,” said Professor Olley. “We desperately need this plan to manage the over-allocation of water and to address the legacy of environmental degradation and pattern of decline that has come about.

“However there is still some way to go to ascertain whether the 2750 GL will achieve the environmental gains that the community will expect. There is a significant financial investment involved here and the public expectation is very high.”

Professor Olley added that it is important to not just be fixated on a volume. “This is also about the flow regimes involved and the need to produce the right delivery at the right time in order to maximise environmental return.”