Gillard to announce 'landmark step' for Murray Darling

THE Federal Government plans to deliver an additional 450GL of water to the Murray Darling Basin, Prime Minister Julia Gillard will announce later today.

Ms Gillard will be joined by Environment Minister Tony Burke in the state to announce the "landmark step", which will be funded to the tune of $1.77 billion over 10 years from 2014.

She said the water would be obtained through projects "to ensure there is no social and economic downside for communities".

The money will be invested primarily in on-farm efficiency works with the goal of achieving generate water savings for the environment and other projects as agreed by states.

"The additional environmental water will benefit major wetlands across the Basin and the lower lakes in South Australia and help ensure the system never again goes into a period of drought lacking the resilience it needs to survive," Ms Gillard said in a statement this morning.

Ms Gillard said recent modelling showed these environmental outcomes could be achieved with the return of 3200GL to the Murray.

"The modelling, released by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority earlier this month, showed that through a combination of relaxing capacity constraints and providing an additional 450GL of water above the 2750GL described in the plan, we can deliver better environmental outcomes for the basin," she said.

Of the extra funding, $200 million will be used to remove constraints such as low lying bridges and undersized dam outlets that currently limit both the volume of water that can flow through river systems and the environmental uses to which it can be put.

Ms Gillard said the plan would be finalised by the end of the year, with the funding to be met from "within existing resources" and from funds set aside in the recent Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook released on Monday.

"The extra funding will be secured through a special account and advance appropriation of future funds to ensure its availability through to 2024 by which time the additional water will have been recovered," Ms Gillard said.

"Legislation to establish the special account and advance appropriation is expected to be introduced into Parliament before the end of the year."

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill, who has withdrawn the state's High Court challenge to the previous plan, has welcomed the funding.

The federal Opposition is already demanding to know how the plan will be funded.

More to come