The consultants looking into the impact of taking more water out of the Murray-Darling system for environmental purposes are also looking at the basis on which it can be achieved.
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has commissioned Ernst and Young to look into the socio-economic effects of taking an extra 450Gl of water out of the basin.
The Water Act provides for the recovery of an additional 450Gl of up-water by 2024, above and beyond the 2750Gl of water to be recovered by 2019 under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
This water can only be recovered if the impacts of recovery are socio-economically neutral.
Authority chief executive officer Phil Glyde told a Shepparton meeting last week their consultants would also be looking at the actual ‘‘socio-economic’’ test.
He said the 450Gl of water was a voluntary part where farmers wanting investment in their businesses could relinquish water.
The 450Gl and 650Gl are legislated and funding is set aside for each of those elements.
Mr Glyde said the Ernst and Young study was looking at the experience of the efficiency measures programs to date and if the test in the plan was the right test, to make sure there was no social or economic detriment.
‘‘The principle in the plan is that 450Gl is returned to the environment, only if there is no adverse social and economic impact.
‘‘Ernst and Young can’t change the settings in the plan, that’s a decision for ministers, but they can give us the benefit of knowledge about how it has been working and what might be a better test than the current test in the plan.’’