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Review of Environmental Land Management Allocations

Consultation on proposed changes to the Environmental Land Management Allocation policy included in the Water Allocation Plan for the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse has now closed. Information on the amendment process can be found on the River Murray Water Allocation Plan webpage.


The former South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board committed to undertaking a comprehensive review of how environmental land management allocations (ELMA) are used and administered following community feedback on the Draft 2017 Water Allocation Plan for the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse (River Murray WAP). The former NRM board has been replaced by the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board who now has the same statutory functions related to development of water allocation plans.

The ELMA review will NOT include changes to the total volume of water set aside for land management in the Lower Murray (22.2 GL)

Current licences related to ELMA will remain in place until 30 June 2021.

The former NRM board commissioned scientific investigations, surveyed ELMA water users and held a community workshop to explore issues and options to improve management of ELMA. It sought feedback from the community to help shape the new policy proposal.

Proposed changes

The draft plan proposes changes to the way ELMA are distributed. Under the current water allocation plan, there is a large variation in the current ELMA application rates (from 1.38 ML/ha to 6.49 ML/ha) across the Lower Murray Reclaimed Irrigation Area (LMRIA).

A review of the science that ELMA is based on has found that the environmental objectives for allocating ELMA cannot be met in all cases across the LMRIA and recommended amending application rates to range from 3.97 ML/ha to 4.99 ML/ha. The amended application rates (now described as optimised rates) will result in ELMA being distributed more equitably and give all licensees equal ability to manage their land (to address soil salinity, acid sulfate soils, soil movement and cracking).

Current water access entitlements are likely to change depending upon where the licensee is located within the LMRIA.

The nature and effect of the proposed changes are outlined below.

  • if the current ELMA rate is less than the optimised rate and all or part of the licensee's ELMA application has been used then they qualify for the optimised rate and their water entitlement will increase.
  • if the current ELMA rate is greater than the optimised rate and the licensee has not used 90 - 100% of their ELMA allocation at least once during the period of 2014/15 to 2018/19 water year inclusive, then their ELMA entitlement will decrease to the optimised rate.
  • If the current ELMA rate is greater than the optimised rate and the licensee has demonstrated 90 - 100% use of their ELMA entitlement during the period of 2014/15 to 2018/19 water year inclusive, then they will retain the current ELMA rate for 10 years or until their ELMA eligible land is sold, whichever occurs first. Note that an exemption applies if land is sold or transferred to an immediate family member then the current ELMA rate will remain until the initial ten year period ends.
  • if no ELMA entitlement has been used during the period of 2014/15 to 2018/19 water year inclusive then the licensee will not qualify for an ELMA entitlement unless they can demonstrate a significant legal or financial commitment to use ELMA, in which case they will be granted optimised rates.
  • Anyone who has recently purchased ELMA eligible land will be eligible to apply for an ELMA entitlement at the optimised rate as long as they can demonstrate that they can apply or can demonstrate a commitment to apply ELMA.

The consultation report outlining previous community feedback is available here.

Technical reports

Related documents

More information

Murraylands and Riverland landscape Board

Unit 5-6, Level 1 Sturt Centre, 2 Sturt Reserve Road, Murray Bridge, SA, 5253

08 8532 9100